A recent article in the New York Times describes a somewhat controversial (and no longer current) program that was run in public schools in the state of Arizona for nearly a decade – sending monitors to judge whether English teachers had an accent. If a teacher was thought to have too strong an accent, he […]
There are few words that share an exact set of definitions – it is almost a guarantee that there will be some subtle differences between one word and its synonym. Sometimes these nuances are so subtle that they can be difficult to articulate fully in a definition, and only become apparent through examining usage. Oxford […]
As part of our occasional series, have a look at these five pairs of related words and see if you can guess which entered the language first. 1) Telephone and annoyance 2) Bodacious and badass 3) Patriot and traitor 4) Chauvinism and sexism 5) Sexy and anaphrodisiac Answers 1) It will perhaps come as […]
Many of us are fascinated by the origins of the words we use. The genealogy of our vocabulary choices is not always obvious – even though English may be a relatively young language, many of its words have been around for over a thousand years, and a word can change its meaning dramatically in far […]
Much, if not all, of the East Coast of the United States was subject to a good drenching last week, courtesy of Hurricane Irene (which might be viewed as an odd name for a storm, given that it shares an etymological root with irenic). Consequently, we who live in that area have been pummeled not […]
Flash mob is a relatively recent addition to Oxford Dictionaries Online. The phrase is defined in the World English version of the dictionary as “a public gathering of complete strangers, organized via the Internet or mobile phone, who perform a pointless act and then disperse again”, and with somewhat more brevity in the US version […]
Various English cities spent a good portion of last week dealing with rioting, avoiding the riots, commenting on said riots, and cleaning up the aftermath. Leaving aside the ongoing discussion regarding the causes and effects of these civil disturbances, it would be interesting to look at the word riot itself. Riot has been in use […]
“Keep your words sweet – you may have to eat them” is an aphorism often attributed to the French Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet, although variants of this phrase turn up in a number of other places. Grellet was perhaps a man who was aware of the etymological background of some English words for food, for […]
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This time it’s not a word that has the OED team scratching their heads, it’s a source: oxford.ly/1gAgxQS
How good is your spelling? Take the Oxford Dictionaries Spelling Challenge: oxford.ly/1jhiOH4
Is the letter Y a vowel or a consonant? oxford.ly/PQOGWi
Syzygy: a conjunction or opposition, especially of the moon with the sun. oxford.ly/1l6TCjz
Word of the Day: maelstrom - a powerful whirlpool in the sea... oxford.ly/1gFc2YV