Katherine Connor Martin

Katherine Connor Martin

Katherine Connor Martin is Head of US Dictionaries at Oxford University Press

Articles by Katherine Connor Martin

The word manspreading was popularized by the MTA, although they they never officially used it.

Manspreading: how New York City’s MTA popularized a word without actually saying it

New York City, home of Oxford Dictionaries’ New York offices, has made numerous contributions to the English lexicon through the years, as disparate as knickerbocker and hip hop. One of Gotham’s most recent impacts was the popularization of manspreading, defined in the latest update of Oxford Dictionaries as ‘the practice whereby a man, especially one […]

New information on the origin of ‘twerk’ revealed in the OED

Twerking since 1820: an OED antedating

When the word twerk burst into the global vocabulary of English a few years ago with reference to a dance involving thrusting movements of the bottom and hips, most accounts of its origin pointed in the same direction, to the New Orleans ‘bounce’ music scene of the 1990s, and in particular to a 1993 recording […]


Freegan, yarn bombing, and the surprisingly long history of twerk: new words in the OED

The online Oxford English Dictionary (OED) launched on 14 March 2000, and since the OED generally does not add neologisms until they have had some time to establish themselves, the newest words in the early updates tended to be terms that had emerged in the 1990s. Fourteen years on, that has begun to change, and […]


What is the origin of the term ‘scot-free’?

To ‘get off scot-free’ means ‘to get away with something without being punished’. Since the familiar English word Scot refers to a native or inhabitant of Scotland, it is tempting to assume that this is a reference to that country. Indeed, that association seems to have existed since at least the 1500s, when the alternative […]

Quadrocopter drone flying in the sky

Conscious uncoupling, smugshrug, and parcelcopter: blips on our radar in 2014

Yesterday the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was revealed to be vape, and we also explored the shortlist. Over the course of 2014, Oxford’s lexicographers identified dozens of newly coined or newly prominent words as potential Words of the Year. Last year’s decision of selfie was nearly unanimous, but such a clear choice is […]

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How to insult your political opponents like an American

In the run-up to today’s mid-term election, observers of American politics have lamented that the nation’s political landscape is more divided than ever. A Pew Research Center report released this year concluded that “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines—and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive—than at any point in the last […]

beer last call

From First World problems to last calls: notes on the OED update

Katherine Connor Martin, Head of US Dictionaries, takes a closer look some of the new additions in this quarter’s update to the OED. Today’s quarterly update is devoted to the revision of several core words in the vocabulary of English, including high and low, fact, case, day, week, group, and company. The new versions of […]

new words

Beyond the dictionary: the stories behind some of Oxford’s latest additions

cray The word cray, shortened for crazy, seems to have arisen in the early 2000s. It originally appeared in the reduplicated form cray cray, which appeared on Urban Dictionary as early as 2002. By the end of the decade, cray cray had been widely adopted in the language of the American blogosphere, as in this […]

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