Fiona McPherson

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

Articles by Fiona McPherson


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, […]

Agatha Christie language

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

Agatha Christie was the 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 writing a number of novels in the romance genre, […]

'Omnishambles' is the Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 2012

The Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 2012 is ‘omnishambles’

Today, OUP announced their Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 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 argue […]

The Lexicographer who Loved Me

James Bond: language and lexicography

What’s your favourite James Bond film? That’s a question that gets bandied about a fair bit, especially on a Friday night in the pub, once the subject of children’s TV of yesteryear has been exhausted. The answer might well be informed by the first of the franchise you were lucky enough to see. For me, […]

A soul of fire: celebrating Samuel Johnson

A soul of fire: celebrating Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson wrote a number of works, but he is arguably best known for the 1755 publication A Dictionary of the English Language. While it was by no means the first ever dictionary published, its influence was remarkable, not least upon the dictionary which would surpass it in terms of coverage of the English language – […]

The linguistic legacy of the Master of Suspense

The linguistic legacy of the Master of Suspense

Sir Alfred Hitchcock was born on August 13 in 1899. His contribution to cinema is without question. You don’t have terms like Master of Suspense bandied around about you if you weren’t rather handy in the director’s chair.  His films have thrilled audiences for decades – we’ve marvelled at his icy blondes, cheered on his […]

The varied vocabulary of underwear

The varied vocabulary of underwear

Your response to today’s Take Your Pants For A Walk Day, assuming it has even crossed your radar, will probably be determined by your location. Perhaps you have conjured up an image of droves of people with boxer shorts, knickers, or Y-fronts attached to leads? Or maybe instead of underwear, you are seeing chinos, slacks, […]


Wombling free: what does Wimbledon have in common with the language of sustainability?

Wimbledon – that fortnight of lush green grass, strawberries, and tennis. Mention Wimbledon to a British person above the age of 30 and they are likely to mention something else – Wombles.  For the uninitiated, the Wombles are a group of creatures who live in an underground burrow on Wimbledon Common and who, as the […]