cocktail

The language of cocktails

People and places Biographical details of Colonel Joseph Kyle Rickey are sparse and difficult to track down, but those we have offer a fascinating sketch of an eclectically talented American. Born in 1842 and variously employed as a soldier, politician, and entrepreneur, Rickey’s name stands out in an age of pioneers and frontiers for one […]

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Clockwork Orange

What inspired the language of A Clockwork Orange?

In 1962, along came a shocking novel called A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, famously turned into a disturbing 1971 film directed by Stanley Kubrick. His dystopian novel, set sometime in the near-future, tells the story of teenage anti-hero Alex and his gang of friends, and their violent escapades. Tea-drinking and toast-munching Or put another way, […]

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Edward Lear

Higher-cynths, lower-cynths, and Seeze Pyders: why Lear’s ‘nonsense’ language is more than just fun

If there were no other reason to remember Edward Lear with fondness (and there are, in fact, very many), his popularization of the limerick would be enough. Like so many children, I was always delighted to come across limericks. My favourite was about the young man of Nepal, who went to a fancy dress ball. […]

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What were your top dictionary lookups in April?

Search monitor

Have you ever wondered which words other people are looking up in the dictionary? Wonder no more… As part of our occasional search monitor series, we’ve taken a look at which words were looked up the most in our free online dictionary last month. We’re very happy (the 259th most looked-up word) here at Oxford […]

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The bizarre history of the Oxford Latin Dictionary

Oxford Latin Dictionary

When we are unsure of the meaning of a word, or want to know when it was first used, or what alternative spellings it has, we consult the dictionary. People often refer to “the dictionary,” as if there were only one, or as if it didn’t matter which one was consulted. But then most households […]

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Over-excited young man

Avoiding hyperbole in writing

The tendency to wax hyperbolic seems to be hard-wired into our brains. Electronic communications also encourage this leaning towards excessive emphasis. We really don’t want our online audience to be in any doubt *whatsoever* [see what I did there?] as to the meaning and tone of what we are writing, so we add emoticons, bung […]

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Football: the beautiful game

The language of the beautiful game (just don’t mention the S-word)

If being reminded of how long it is since your country won the World Cup makes you sick as a parrot, you’re not alone – and you’d be using one of the many clichés with a long and glorious tradition in football, regardless of where your footballing loyalty lies. Words of two halves Some quintessentially […]

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Margaret Thatcher

‘If you want anything said, ask Mrs Thatcher’

In May 1979 the United Kingdom elected its first female Prime Minister, in spite of her own comment ten years earlier: ‘No woman in my time will be Prime Minister or Chancellor or Foreign Secretary—not the top jobs. Anyway I wouldn’t want to be Prime Minister. You have to give yourself 100%’. A few years […]

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