Is there a space between a and lot, or is the spelling alot OK? What’s the difference between away and a way? If you’ve ever pondered over questions similar to these, the dilemma of ‘two words or one?’ is one which you’ll have grappled with when putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. On […]
Shock, horror! The BBC, once revered as a paragon of correct English, seems to have slipped from its pedestal of late. Many people (including me, as I blogged about here) have become increasingly irritated or concerned by our national broadcaster’s lapses from the norm when it comes to English grammar, usage, and pronunciation. Is this […]
The simple answer to that question: yes, there’s definitely a distinction between these words, but it’s most unlikely that there’s anything defiantly different about them! A slight spelling digression… Up till now, I’d always reckoned that the main trouble people had with the word definitely was that they tended to misspell it as definately or […]
Ever since we first gazed up to the skies and envied the glorious freedom of birds, many of us have yearned to join them (appropriately, aviation derives from avis, which means ‘bird’ in Latin). Some of mankind’s earliest myths (including that of the Greek craftsman Daedalus and his son Icarus) are testament to our deep-rooted […]
I recently endured a weekend of mini-disasters (and it was supposed to be a relaxing Bank Holiday, too!). When I related the catalogue of catastrophettes to my father, his first response was ‘Well, worse things happen at sea!’. Though I was piqued, as he clearly didn’t think my weekend ranked high on the scale of […]
What’s the difference between advise and advice? Do you know? Does it matter? Well, yes, it does, because apart from the obvious fact that one has the ending -ise and the other -ice, there’s a highly significant distinction: one’s a verb and one’s a noun. These grammatical and spelling differences involve a related semantic one […]
Your data was corrupted… Wah! First thought: I’ve lost some work. Second thought (typical grammar geek!): shouldn’t that be ‘…data were corrupted’? In the strictest sense, yes, because it’s all a question of ensuring that you match singular subjects with singular verbs, and ditto plural subjects and verbs, a process called agreement. Easy when it’s […]
1. Such a question isn’t intended to elicit an answer. 2. VHF radio calls from the coastguard and other ships were illiciting no response. 3. He brazenly carried on an elicit affair with Bert’s wife. 4. She admitted to having been in possession of illicit drugs. 5. You can imagine the amount of booing this […]
- 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?
A call for creative types: have you entered our Word of the Day short story competition? oxford.ly/1IImxYw
Word of the Day: terpsichorean - relating to dancing... oxford.ly/1xsbjUC
What’s in a name? Bob’s your uncle and other curious expressions: oxford.ly/1DQbcpp
Want a quick overview of the history of English? Our 2 minute animation shows where English words were borrowed from: oxford.ly/1sDPXSZ