Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Allison Wright

Allison Wright

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

Articles by Allison Wright


That’s a wrap! The origins of filmic language

Cut, print, and 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, […]

Obrigado! Takk! Di ou mèsi! Celebrating World Gratitude Day across time and language

gratitude map

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 […]

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

Other than as an ironic idiom for ‘no more than’ (e.g., sex with Edgar lasts all of twenty seconds), does all of have any legit uses? The answer is a qualified, complicated, and personally embarrassed yes. Here’s the story. An irksome habit of many student writers is to just automatically stick an of between all […]

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

From rockability 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, and the Oxford English Dictionary

Book Lover's Day: Virginia Woolf

In celebration of Book Lover’s Day, we asked four of our dictionary editors to tell us about their favourite writers. Each of the writers featured is in the top 1000 cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary. If you subscribe to the OED Online (many UK libraries offer free access if you provide your library […]

Why do we love to give people and places nicknames?

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 […]

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

Madison Avenue

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 […]

Word in the news: diva

Diva

Last week, music lovers learned of the untimely death of celebrated pop and R&B singer Whitney Houston. Blessed with extraordinary vocal talent and marred by tumultuous personal struggles, Whitney will be remembered all around the world as the ultimate diva. The news coverage of her passing uses language that never once allows us to overlook […]

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