The Glorious 25 May, in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, is a day for wearing lilacs to celebrate the People’s Revolution. The 25th is also Towel Day, commemorating the life and works of Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy celebrated the towel as ‘the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have’. Furthermore, the […]
Like those of the creature itself, the origins of the word vampire are somewhat mysterious. The word comes to English from the Hungarian, perhaps having its roots in a Turkish word for a witch. It was introduced into English around the early 1700s in fascinating accounts of European legends. A little later in the same […]
On April 13, 1796, an elephant set foot on American soil for the first time. Although accounts vary, this elephant has been identified with Old Bet, who became a national sensation as the main attraction of Hackaliah Bailey’s circus. Outside the Elephant Hotel in Somers, N.Y., built by Bailey and named after his star performer, […]
Dame Vivienne Westwood. It’s a name to conjure with. If you know nothing about her, you might be forgiven for thinking that she’s a character in a period drama, or a Jane Austen heroine. Indeed, like so many of Austen’s women, Dame Vivienne is a breaker of social conventions. But while Elizabeth Bennet’s idea of […]
I’m tremendously excited about the film version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit that’s coming out in the UK this week. As a child, my favourite film was the 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi. When I say it was my favourite, I suppose I mean that it […]
Editor’s note: This article has been abridged to remove references to some of Cummings’s more explicitly sexual poetry. Read the extended version of this article here. Caution: contains strong language. October 14 marked the anniversary of the birth of the American poet and artist E. E. Cummings. If you know anything about Cummings, it is probably […]
Today, September 26th, is the 124th anniversary of the birth of the poet, playwright, and critic T. S. Eliot. Apart from being one of the twentieth century’s most important writers, Eliot is, more importantly, one of my top-five favourite poets of all time. He is a poet of language, a poet of many voices, and today […]
As a die-hard Beatles fan, I was delighted to learn that the Beatles’ lyrics are very popular with teachers of English as a foreign language. Apparently, the songs are notable for containing high percentages of the commonest English words, and are therefore very useful for learners. But in writing this article, I’m more interested in what […]
- Affect versus effect
- Grammar myths #2: please miss, can I start a sentence with a conjunction?
- Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?
- Lie or lay? Laying down the law on some puzzling verbs
- Compliment or complement?
- OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?
- Principle or principal?
- Rein or reign? Hold your horses before applying pen to paper…
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is… vape
- Video: acronyms and initialisms – what’s the difference?
- Feeling bright? 8 historical synonyms for ‘clever’
- Gallery: new quotations in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
- America’s war on language
- The peculiar history of cows in the OED
- What do you call a group of…
- 20 words that originated in the 1920s
- How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?
- What the Romans did for us: English words of Latin origin
- Why did Tolkien use archaic language?
ICYMI: Word of the Day: terpsichorean - relating to dancing... oxford.ly/1xsbjUC
Who was the original smart Alec, and why are people as happy as Larry? Our blog post has some theories... oxford.ly/1DQbcpp
What is the origin of the term ‘pros and cons’? Find out... bit.ly/I0tMiI
The controversy over 'thankfully'... oxford.ly/13gojj0
Make sure you know when to use lay, lie, laid, and lain: bit.ly/1aErWuT