Ammon Shea

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

Articles by Ammon Shea


Accents in English

Putting the accent on English

A recent article in the New York Times describes a somewhat controversial (and no longer current) program that was run in public schools in the state of Arizona for nearly a decade – sending monitors to judge whether English teachers had an accent.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 […]

A sign saying 'synonym'

Synonyms in the Oxford English Corpus

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 […]

Which word is older?

Which word is older?

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 no great […]

Wonderful word origins

Seasick

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 […]

pouring rain

It’s raining; it’s pouring

Oxford Dictionaries provides a lovely vocabulary for describing our recent weather – there are 130 different words in this dictionary that have rain in their definition (and that’s before we get to any other kind of weather). While it may not have the same degree of historical breadth that the OED has, and therefore does […]

flash mob

Shifted meanings: flash mob

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 […]

riot

Riotous words

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 […]

food words

Quiz: origins of food words

“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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