Stranded prepositions are nothing to fret about There are numerous myths relating to grammatical dos and don’ts, many of which were drummed into us at school. The one that stubbornly refuses to budge from my mind is the diktat ‘never begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and or but’. And why not, pray?* […]
Thankfully, most of us negotiate post-educational life very well without having to do much (or any) conscious grammatical analysis. My hunch is that if you put twenty people into a room and asked them to say what an adverb is, they might look rather uncomfortable or even try to flee. If you applied some metaphorical […]
He marched forward on to the lectern with the possessive insouciance of a hoodie swaggering on to his sink estate. [Guardian 5 October 2011] This evocative description of British PM David Cameron as he stepped up to address the recent Conservative Party Conference prompted me to think about the verb ‘swagger’ and how it’s often […]
Who’d have thunk it? The humble hyphen, the shorter sibling of the dash, is in the media spotlight, and for once it has nothing to do with dictionaries, either. The celebrity gossip websites have been buzzing with news of Lauren Pierce Bush, niece of former US President George W. Bush. Lauren’s marriage to David Lauren […]
True confessions time: back in the dim and distant days when I first embarked on lexicography, I was tasked with drafting potted biographies of famous people. In trying to be succinct, I had a rather bad habit of writing in the following vein: ‘Born in Russia, his most famous opera is …’ The problem stems […]
Are you punctilious about punctuation, or do you regard it as a hassle or a minefield? Many people, including no doubt the person who posted the example below on a social networking site, seem to share the latter view. It often appears that, rather than get it wrong, there are those who prefer to omit […]
I’d like to begin with a quick mental workout. Do you know which of the following sentences, both found in the same British online newspaper in 2003, would be considered incorrect according to standard British and American usage, and why? Colchester police has also queried the proposal. Colchester police have launched a new tough approach […]
Smile goggle-eyed at them and blow raspberries at them. Jo was chatting to me on the dog We would urge people to use their loaf when parking and make sure they don’t leave anything of value on display. Rhyming slang, although almost 200 years old, is alive and kicking today: all the above examples are […]
- 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?
Is a thumb a finger? The answer isn't a simple one... oxford.ly/1t2nQek
Word of the Day: deictic - denoting a word whose meaning depends on context... ... oxford.ly/1wiVrj1
How good is your American English? Try our quiz and find out! oxford.ly/1nlCKet