Santa Claus

What do you call the man in the red suit?

Last year on the OxfordWords blog, we posted a picture of a rather rotund gentleman, with a white beard and moustache, and some fetching white faux-fur trimmings on his red suit and hat. We asked ‘Who is this?’ and gave you a choice of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Santa, Saint Nick, Santy, Kris Kringle, or […]

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Wheel of Zodiac symbols

Ye Gods! Praise the Days

In this last week of December 2012, I am gazing at the calendar above my desk and wondering how it is possible that in a few days I will have to hang up a new calendar for a new year (as my past gets longer, are the years getting shorter??). My mind wanders as I […]

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tolkien

Old English and Tolkien

How well do you know Tolkien’s etymologies? As a child, my favourite film was the 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi. When I say it was my favourite, I suppose I mean that it was my only film. I just couldn’t get enough of it; it was always new […]

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The Nutcracker

Silver houses and marmalade castles: interpreting The Nutcracker

In 1892 the curtains rose at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg for the premiere of a new ballet. With a score by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, the ballet was set to be a hit. After all, the pair had produced The Sleeping Beauty, which was hugely successful, just two years earlier. But […]

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Holiday cookies on a table.

The origins of cookie names

It may be difficult to do so whilst piling them into one’s maw, but did you ever think about how Christmas cookies came to possess such deliciously eclectic names? Jumbles. Thumbprints. Snickerdoodles. Gingersnaps. Rugelach. Sand tarts. Macaroons. Kiffles. And these are only a few of the hundreds of types treasured in American households during the […]

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three wise men

Christmas in Spain: Kings and caganeres

With every passing year, British Christmas seems to start earlier. As soon as the high street is finished with Halloween, Christmas gets going, with all the Slade and tinsel that that entails. Things are done differently in Spain. Navidad (from the Latin nativitas, also the root of the English nativity) officially kicks off with the […]

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Hip-hop on ‘ice’

Hip-hop on ‘ice’

Hearing the noun ice used outside of the frozen-water context has got me thinking about the lyrics of “Thrift Shop”, a song by the hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Check it out: I’m just pumped, I bought some sh*t from a thrift shop. Ice on the fringe, it’s so damn frosty, the people like, “Damn, that’s a cold-ass […]

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Don't bank on it. . .

Don’t bank on it. . .

With just over a week to go until Christmas, many of us are no doubt looking forward to the holidays and a few days off work. For those working on the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, however, writing the history of the language sometimes took precedence over a Christmas break. Christmas leave in […]

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