Choosing I or me.

‘I’ or ‘me’?

Choosing whether to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ can be tricky, but it’s something that often pops up in both written and spoken communications, and it’s important to get it right. As the results of our poll shows, it’s not always clear which is the right choice. Here’s some advice taken from our Better writing section, […]

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pedant

Confessions of a pedant

We all know what a taxi is There are two big problems about working for a dictionary. The first is that everyone assumes you know the meaning of every word, which is setting the bar rather high. There are about 600,000 words and senses in the OED. Any one of them could crop up at […]

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gender

This blog is a he

Cast your mind back to your twelve-year-old self stuck in the classroom on a Friday afternoon in the middle of a French lesson. (Or German, or Spanish, for that matter.) If you grew up as a native monolingual English speaker, what was the thing you struggled with the most when learning a foreign language? Was […]

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How to spell potato (or is it 'potatoe'?!)

Spelling potato ‘potatoe’

In the modern era, no gaffe of the spoken word quite reaches the heights of Dan Quayle’s misspelling of a certain tuber. And it also occasioned one of the most unfair responses; Dan Quayle got a bad rap (for potato, at least). Potato P-O-T-A-T-O Potato In June of 1992 Quayle was still the vice-president of George H. […]

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what the dickens

Interactive quiz: Dickens or what the dickens?

2012 sees the bicentenary of one of the great and prolific authors of the English literary canon – Charles Dickens. His contribution to literature speaks for itself, but his contribution to the English language is also significant. In particular, the names of some of his characters have entered the language as words in their own […]

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A look at Australian English past and present

Australian English

The 26th of January is Australia Day. In this post, we look at Australian English. Professor Bruce Moore, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, Australian National University , has this to say about Australian English in an article on the OED website: Australian English differs from other Englishes primarily in its accent and vocabulary. […]

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Haggis

Burns suppers: neeps, tatties, and A Toast to the Lassies

January 25th is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, when Burns suppers are held in commemoration of the Scottish poet and lyricist. Despite being the national bard of Scotland, his influence spreads much further than those national borders, and his works have been translated into many languages including Russian and Czech. There are […]

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So what are crocodile tears?

Where does ‘crocodile tears’ come from?

To shed crocodile tears is to put on an insincere act of being sad. The expression is very old, dating back to the mid-sixteenth century. An account of the life of Edmund Grindal, the sixteenth-century Archbishop of Canterbury, quotes him as saying, ‘I begin to fear, lest his humility . . . be a counterfeit […]

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