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


How to amuse friends and bamboozle people without even knowing it – reflections of a Scot down south

Reflections of a Scot down south

When people ask where I am from, the answer “Scotland” is not what they are expecting – that much is evident from my accent, which I haven’t lost after 14 years down south. For the most part, people find it easy enough to understand me – my Scots brogue isn’t all that impenetrable. Yet on […]

Remember, remember… pyrotechnic displays that amaze (and terrify)

Bonfire Night

It’s a custom peculiar to Britain, but for school children (and some adults) all over the country, as November begins, the following words march round and round. Remember remember the fifth of November Gunpowder, treason and plot Confession time.  I have an uneasy relationship with fireworks, something which became apparent in early childhood. As a […]

Are you sitting comfortably?

Furniture

Regular readers of this blog may remember a recent poll in which we posed the following question: What do you call the piece of furniture pictured below? Sofa Couch Settee Other The results were as follows: 58% were in favour of sofa, 29% plumped for couch, settee was chosen by 9%, and 4% of respondents […]

To describe or prescribe, that is the question (with apologies to Shakespeare)

prescriptive or descriptive

Regular readers of this blog may remember a recent poll in which we posed the following question: Do you think dictionaries should: Describe language as it is being used Prescribe how language should be used Be a mixture of prescriptive and descriptive The results were as follows: 70.27 % were in favour of a mixture, […]

Brassies, bunkers, and bogeys: celebrating The Open

Brassies, bunkers, and bogeys

The game of golf has a long established history – the OED records the word as far back as 1457. From the moment when the first ball was addressed and the subsequent first putt was sunk, the English language has been enriched with golfing terms, some of which are illustrated in the accompanying word cloud. […]

What’s in a name…

What's in a name ...

The most eagerly awaited celebrity birth since, oh well, the last one, has finally happened and congratulations go to David and Victoria Beckham on the birth of Harper Seven. Ever since the pregnancy was announced, speculation has been rife as to what name would be bestowed upon their fourth child. And now we know (and […]

Anyone for tennis?

Tennis ball

We are now well and truly into the first week of Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam event of the tennis calendar, and provided the weather holds, a feast of tennis beckons, with a plentiful supply of the traditional strawberries and cream of course. Keeping it real The modern game has its origins in real tennis, a […]

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