Most of us would agree that English spelling can be a minefield: one reason for this is that there are numerous words which sound the same when you say or hear them but which are spelled differently and which have completely different meanings: a few examples are pour/pore, flower/flour, and sight/site. Such words are known […]
There are less problems with finding staff these days too. If anything, we’ve had fewer problems than we expected. Do you ever waver when it comes to choosing between less and fewer? You’re in good company, as the above examples (both taken from a British newspaper website on the same date) demonstrate. You may even […]
English spelling is full of apparent idiosyncrasies – native speakers and learners alike grapple with doubling consonants, how to form plurals, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’’, and have to dodge umpteen other potential pitfalls. Another rich source of mistakes is the fact that English contains pairs of similar-sounding words (homophones). These words have different […]
I enjoy reading your comments on Oxford’s blog posts: they provide an invaluable insight into your language concerns, likes, and dislikes. Your remarks strengthen my awareness that we have a sophisticated and grammatically knowledgeable audience: this keeps me on my toes, to say the least. Of course, I always aim to stay within the bounds […]
Have any of you out there received a memo yet informing you that 21 May is National Memo Day? No? Me neither! Nevertheless, in honour of this world-shaking event, I thought it would be apt to imagine how such a memo might read: To: all stakeholders From: Director of Insight and Strategic Marketing Subject: […]
The tendency to wax hyperbolic seems to be hard-wired into our brains. Electronic communications also encourage this leaning towards excessive emphasis. We really don’t want our online audience to be in any doubt *whatsoever* [see what I did there?] as to the meaning and tone of what we are writing, so we add emoticons, bung […]
Floccinaucinihilipilification – we might not bandy it around much in our daily conversation (well, you might, but I certainly don’t), but it usually ranks fairly highly in Oxford’s search monitor surveys. It’s one of those very rare and curious-sounding long words that entertain and amuse us – so much so that it came 38th in […]
Bacterias, bacteriae, bacteriums? Sorting out the ignoramuses from the cognoscenti (and other ‘borrowed’ plurals)
Cast your eyes over the headline above: which of the three plurals of bacterium is the correct one? Read on, I’ll enlighten you soon… Are you already awarding yourself a pat on the back for knowing the right answer? With English spelling and grammar setting a fair few traps for the unwary, it’s a reason […]
- Affect versus effect
- Grammar myths #2: please miss, can I start a sentence with a conjunction?
- OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?
- Lie or lay? Laying down the law on some puzzling verbs
- Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?
- Compliment or complement?
- Rein or reign? Hold your horses before applying pen to paper…
- Principle or principal?
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…
- Which classical character are you?
- On the radar: July 2014
- Fedoras to mullets: decades of fashion words
- The peculiar history of cows in the OED
- How I created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones
- What do you call a group of…
- Can -core survive normcore?
- 20 words that originated in the 1920s
- How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?
- Farmily album: the rise of the felfie
- Language review 2013: from bitcoin to sharknado
- Infographic: a closer look at ‘selfie’
- What the Romans did for us: English words of Latin origin
- Why did Tolkien use archaic language?
Hend, smeigh, and other historical synonyms for 'clever': oxford.ly/1sVY1bi
New quotations in the updated Oxford Dictionary of Quotations include this, said by Malala Yousafzai: pic.twitter.com/bnPpda6XJb
Word of the Day: hypnopompic - relating to the state immediately preceding waking up... oxford.ly/1sVvYJ9
ICYMI: Word of the Day: dinkum - (of an article or person) genuine, honest, true... oxford.ly/1pnZl4G
Do you know the female equivalent of brethren? Find out... oxford.ly/1kcDR8i