Allison Wright

Allison Wright

Allison Wright is an editor for US Dictionaries at Oxford University Press.

Articles by Allison Wright


A limerick competition for Mother’s Day

A limerick competition for Mother’s Day

The appreciation for limericks, such as Edward Lear’s nonsense verses, is well-documented here on the OxfordWords blog. As is an appreciation for mothers.  Since Mother’s Day and Limerick Day coincide this year in the US, what better way to celebrate both than with a mom-themed limerick competition? (The competition is, of course, open worldwide.) How […]

piggy bank

Quiz: how well do you speak money?

When the US Congress passed the original National Currency Act on February 25, 1863, a single currency for the United States of America was established for the first time. This momentous event not only brought the nation together economically, it also ushered in completely new and dynamic ways to talk about money. The Oxford English […]

film reel

That’s a wrap! The origins of filmic language

“Film is history.” I’m reminded in the above quote by Martin Scorsese (who, impressively, enters his 49th year as a feature film director in 2012) that film and history are inextricably linked. By its very nature, a film is a historical artifact—a record of some past action that preserves the moment for time to come. Film, […]

gratitude map

Obrigado! Takk! Di ou mèsi! How to say ‘thank you’ around the world

How many ways can we say ‘thank you’? In English alone, there are plenty. The Oxford English Dictionary first cites the simplest, thanks, in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1598. The OED also treats us to some oldies (gramercy [c. 1330], thank thee [1631], thankee [1824]) and contextualizes some goodies (British colloquialism cheers stumbled out […]

music genres

From rockabilly to mathcore: exploring the cultural and linguistic blending of popular music genres

The language of music has never been more nimble. With fusion genres like nu metal, trip hop, acid jazz, and synthpop having emerged over the last thirty years or so, it’s no surprise that our music vocabulary has expanded. And since we here at the OxfordWords blog love our portmanteaus, it only seems right to […]

Virginia Woolf To The Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, and the Oxford English Dictionary

Virginia Woolf was a prolific writer whose successes include works of fiction, biography, and essay. Her contributions to the English language are certainly not to be overlooked; indeed, she is among the top 1000 most cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary, and had a predilection for coining terms—mostly phrasal adjectives—herself. Descriptions of “heavy-lidded” eyes, […]

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 […]

advertising

Mad Men, the culture of consumerism, and the language of advertising

Mad Men, the ’60s-era drama about the men and women working in a New York advertising agency, makes its long-awaited return this weekend after a 17-month long hiatus. Although less obvious than the stellar art direction and costume design in transporting viewers into a specific time, language plays an important role in creating the lived-in […]

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