boomerang

Boomerang vocabulary: words that return to their origins

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be” may have been good advice for Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but it isn’t practical for a language. English is both an avid borrower (ballet, schmooze, wok) and a generous lender: consider German das Baby, French le week-end, and Japanese aisu kuriimu (‘ice cream’—try saying it out loud). Occasionally, […]

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‘Totes’ and other new words added to OxfordDictionaries.com

'Totes' and other great new words have been added to OxfordDictionaries.com.

Walking around in your leopard-print onesie while proudly sporting guyliner may lead to some guffaws and eye-rolling among family and friends, but whatevs! You know you’re totes on trend. The above sentence contains just some of the new words and terms added to Oxford Dictionaries Online in our latest update which covers a whole range […]

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Kapow and other comic book words

Kapow! and other comic book words

Chances are, if asked to think of the language of comics, terms like kapow!, blam!, and zap! wouldn’t be far from your mind. This is largely thanks to pop art and the Adam West Batman TV show, which emblazoned these terms across our screens, often accompanied by shrill trumpets blaring madly. I used to cringe […]

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Socialism

The changing meaning of ‘socialist’

You might hear socialist used a lot in political discussions, both positively and negatively. It’s a word that on occasion apparently confuses a large number of Americans, as many use it in a manner that is perhaps inconsistent with its intended meaning. Hence, a short primer on the word socialist. Socialist is first recorded in the […]

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corporate jargon

Incentivizing proactive synergistic visions, going forward

Have any of you out there received a memo yet informing you that 21 May is National Memo Day? No? Me neither! Nevertheless, in honour of this world-shaking event, I thought it would be apt to imagine how such a memo might read: To: all stakeholders From: Director of Insight and Strategic Marketing Subject: Leveraging […]

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Beastie Boys lyrics have even found their way into the OED.

Beastie Boys lyrics in the Oxford English Dictionary

Ever wondered what kind of mark Beastie Boys lyrics have made on the English language? Is it possible that any of these rhymes I grew up memorizing have found their way into the Oxford English Dictionary? With this question in mind I rocked up to my desk and began my search, which, I’m happy to say, yielded some […]

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nicknames

Why do we love to give people and places nicknames?

What’s in a nickname? Corruption, initially. Which is not to say that there is anything inherently dishonest about nicknames; the history of the word stems from an error. Originally “an eke-name”, meaning an additional name, “a neke name” formed out of an incorrect word division that blended the noun with its indefinite article. By the […]

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The term swashbuckler is another word for pirate.

What is the origin of ‘swashbuckler’?

The traditional swashbuckler definition, as it appears by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is as ‘a swaggering bravo or ruffian; a noisy braggadocio’, was, indeed, someone who ‘swashed his buckle’. To ‘swash’, in the sixteenth century, was to dash or strike something violently, while a ‘buckler’ was a small round shield, carried by a handle at the back. So […]

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