Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Fiona McPherson

Fiona McPherson is a Senior Editor with the Oxford English Dictionary.

Articles by Fiona McPherson


theatre

From early doors to blood-tub: language relating to theatre

The lure of the greasepaint has long attracted people, from Mrs Worthington’s daughter to the latest contestants on reality shows to pick the next star of a West End remake. So on World Theatre Day, await the swish of the curtain, don’t let the super troupers blind you, and get ready to tread the boards […]

Talk Like A Pirate Day: pirate phrases and their origins

Jolly_roger

Be it from the pages of Treasure Island, the exploits of Captain Jack Sparrow on the silver screen, or the Guybrush Threepwood’s adventures on Monkey Island, the fictional pirate has long held a fascination for landlubbers everywhere. On this International Talk Like A Pirate Day, we take a look at a few of the words […]

We need to talk about literally

Literally

Hold the front pages, literally. Or not. There has been much excitement this week over the discovery that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has recorded a sense of the word literally that seems to cause particular irritation. I am speaking of its use in a sentence like “I literally died laughing and had to run […]

The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher’s linguistic legacy

The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher's linguistic legacy

The debate around Margaret Thatcher’s political and social legacy will no doubt continue for some time yet. But what of her linguistic legacy? Did she leave her mark on the English language? Iron Handbags It’s fair to say that Margaret Thatcher’s linguistic legacy lies more in what others have said about her and her politics […]

Oscar said it

handbag

A man who does not think for himself does not think at all So wrote the inimitable Oscar Wilde in The Soul of Man Under Socialism. It’s not an accusation that could be levelled at the man himself. Only 27 years after his death, another inimitable wit, this time Dorothy Parker, published her famous epigram, demonstrating that […]

Argh, muggins, and pleasure boat: diarists in the OED

Argh, muggins, and pleasure boat: diarists in the OED

Diaries hold a special place in literature. They can provide a uniquely personal snapshot of the world at a particular time. When I was younger, it seemed like every year brought forth a particular New Year’s resolution – this would be the year I would begin my diary and, more importantly, keep it going. Yet, […]

Appointment with Words: where does Agatha Christie feature in the OED?

Appointment with Words: where does Agatha Christie feature in the OED?

Tomorrow sees the anniversary of the death of Agatha Christie, a doyenne of the whodunnit, or as the celebrated humourist Ogden Nash put it, a murdermongress. In a career spanning 50 years, she wrote over 60 detective novels, as well as collections of short stories and plays. In addition, she indulged her romantic side by […]

Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 2012: ‘omnishambles’

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2012: 'omnishambles'

Today, OUP announced their Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year for 2012. Fiona McPherson was one of the lexicographers on the judging panel, and here are her reflections on the shortlist. A common misconception about the work of a lexicographer is that we sit around in the manner of a cabal each week and […]

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