Advise or advice

Advise or advice?

What’s the difference between advise and advice? Do you know? Does it matter? Well, yes, it does, because apart from the obvious fact that one has the ending -ise and the other -ice, there’s a highly significant distinction: one’s a verb and one’s a noun. These grammatical and spelling differences involve a related semantic one […]

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Maya Angelou quote

Maya Angelou’s legacy encompasses poetry, essays, and autobiographical writing. With a distinctive voice and a love of language, it is unsurprising that she is currently quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as supporting evidence for 42 entries. These range from make-believe to maternal, poetess to privacy. She also appears several times in Oxford Essential Quotations, including the quotation above.

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How Bill Murray changed the English language

Bill Murray in the OED

When the Ghostbusters film was released in the mid-1980s it gave us many things: an earworm of a theme tune, an ideal group fancy dress costume, and a chance to appreciate Bill Murray’s wonderfully deadpan delivery of some classic lines. But who would have thought that one of these lines would have such an impact […]

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Children's WOTY

Children’s Word of the Year 2014

Our Children’s Dictionaries department has today announced the Children’s Word of the Year for 2014: ‘minion’. The word was chosen after analysis of the entries to the 2014 BBC Radio 2 500 WORDS competition, in which children aged 13 and under were invited to compose an original work of fiction, using no more than 500 […]

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Words that win spelling bees

Words that win spelling bees

So, you think you’re good at spelling do you? How would you fare with autochthonous, appoggiatura, Ursprache, serrefine, guerdon, Laodicean, stromuhr, cymotrichous, and guetapens? If you can successfully spell words like these, then maybe you should consider entering the annual Scripps Spelling Bee. From 27 to 29 May, 281 spellers from across the United States, […]

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cookies

Biscuit vs. cookie: a transatlantic debate

“England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” So said George Bernard Shaw (allegedly). Much has been written about words that are chiefly used in one country or the other (for example, eggplant in the US and aubergine in the UK), but there are also words that exist in both countries but […]

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cat fiddle

Nursery rhymes: time capsules of language

It’s uncanny: when most of us hear the lines “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” or “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”, we find our brains mysteriously capable (how many years after our youth?) of reciting the full nursery rhyme, as if on autopilot. These are rhymes many begin to learn in the cradle from parents who […]

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puffin

5 (more) words you didn’t know were acronyms

In 2013 we offered you a list of acronyms which you might not have known were acronyms, from scuba to care package. We even called Robert Pattinson ‘R-Patz’ along the way, for which we’re still feeling a little bit ashamed. To atone, we’ve delved back into the dictionary, and come up with another five acronyms […]

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