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?
- Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?
- Lie or lay? Laying down the law on some puzzling verbs
- OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?
- Compliment or complement?
- Principle or principal?
- Rein or reign? Hold your horses before applying pen to paper…
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…
- Which classical character are you?
- Talking proper: the language of U and Non-U
- 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
- How I created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones
- What do you call a group of…
- 20 words that originated in the 1920s
- How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?
- Infographic: a closer look at ‘selfie’
- What the Romans did for us: English words of Latin origin
- Why did Tolkien use archaic language?
ICYMI: Word of the Day: retroflex - turned backwards... oxford.ly/12928uF
We explore how Doris Lessing’s upbringing and surroundings have influenced her writing: oxford.ly/1tet06K
Floccinaucinihilipilification: is it the act of considering something brilliant, or worthless? Find out which... oxford.ly/1p1EXeO
What do you call your evening meal? Let us know in our poll: oxford.ly/1CWfQwj
Do you know what a 'fipple' is? Read the definition and find out... oxford.ly/1wnTmlH