Ammon Shea

Ammon Shea is a consulting editor for American Dictionaries for Oxford University Press.

Articles by Ammon Shea


hibernating bear

Hibernating words and linguistic cicadas

Most words develop along fairly predictable paths. They may be quotidian words, such as set, which accrue new shades of meanings along the course of a very long life, and which end up with so many dozens of definitions that it is extremely difficult to see where one begins and another ends. Some words may […]

Jeremy Lin

Linsanity: a star is born

The Internet in general and the sports world in particular (as least that aspect of it that follows basketball) have been fairly agog of late, following the sudden elevation of the New York Knicks latest star, one Jeremy Lin. This is not surprising, given that the story of an Asian-American player from Harvard achieving stardom […]

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. […]

hate words

Which words do we love to hate?

Every year since 1976, Lake Superior State University in Michigan has released a small list of select words – those that they have decided should be banished from everyday use of English. The list is released on the first day of the year, and is composed of words submitted by the public that are thought […]

The language of gift-giving

The language of gift-giving

So, the Christmas season is well and truly upon us, something that tends to either warm the cockles of one’s heart, or bring about a blinding depression. For many people the cause of holiday angst is the entire hullabaloo made about gifts and shopping – there is an increasing complaint that the gift-giving (or commercial) […]

money coins

Ka-ching – all you need is money

David Mamet once wrote “Everyone needs money – that’s why they call it money”, although he wrote this in a screenplay, and so the words were uttered by a fictional character. Even though this quote of Mamet’s is not overburdened with clarity, it is amusing, and serves as a useful reminder to look at some […]

Cassette

Reports of the death of the cassette tape are greatly exaggerated

A few months back Oxford University Press received a good deal of attention in response to an announcement about new words that would be added to the 12th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (among them mankini, cyberbullying, and retweet). While the responses were largely positive, there was a certain amount of disquiet, which is […]

Corpus studies

Corpora studies: what they can and cannot tell us

Corpora studies (examining large bodies of text for evidence on how language is used) are a relatively recent thing, born in the 19th century. Small corpora were used early in the century, but one of the first to use a significant number of words was the German linguist Kading, who in 1897 managed to put […]

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