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

Katherine Connor Martin

Katherine Connor Martin

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

Articles by Katherine Connor Martin


jeans

Can -core survive normcore?

What do President Obama, Steve Jobs, and the Toyota Camry have in common? In recent weeks all three have been described as “normcore,” a supposed fashion trend in which the sartorial elite eschew their usual sui generis styles for dowdy clothing of the type ordinary people wear. The concept may have originated as satire, but […]

Word of the Year 2013: blips on our radar

Detail of selected items from the previous graph

As OUP’s lexicographers go about our quiet work, occasionally a novel word, spied in a newspaper, a post, or a tweet, catches our fancy. “Possible WOTY?!!!” we might email to a colleague, anticipating the year’s end. When we go back through those old emails months later, it is sometimes difficult to remember what inspired such […]

Bromance

The rise of the portmanbro

How an abbreviation of brother became a word-forming dynamo For most of its existence in English, the word bro led a quiet and unassuming life. For centuries, it was merely a graphic abbreviation of brother (properly bro.), occasionally put to colloquial use, like sis, to refer to a person’s male sibling. It wasn’t until the […]

twerk

What is the origin of ‘twerk’?

Well, if you hadn’t heard of the word twerk before this week, chances are you are now well and truly aware of its existence, thanks to Miley Cyrus’s well documented performance at MTV’s VMAs. If you’re unsure of its meaning, you’re in luck, as we added the word to Oxford Dictionaries Online in our recent […]

Zebra crossings: what zonkeys tell us about our love of hybrid words

Zonkey

Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of the royal baby born last week, some media outlets found time to report on another notable birth: that of Italy’s rare donkey-zebra hybrid, Ippo, which is being called a zonkey. Zonkey, it turns out, is only one of several words for the semi-striped offspring of zebras and other equine mammals. […]

Bridesmen and best maids: surprising facts about wedding words

Bridesmen and best maids: surprising facts about wedding words

Brides weren’t always female While the oldest recorded sense of bride is the familiar one referring to a woman, there is some evidence of the word being used in a gender-neutral manner (like spouse) from the 15th to the early 17th century:  “Sweet Daughter deer…Isis blesse thee and thy Bride, With golden Fruit” (Joshua Sylvester, […]

Labouring language: the changing vocabulary of childbirth

Stork and bundle

Expectant parents don’t generally have a lot of spare time for idly perusing the dictionary, but if they did, they would find that the vocabulary of the event they joyfully anticipate has undergone significant changes over the centuries. Consider, for instance, the verb to deliver. In contemporary use, the mother is often the subject of […]

Unpresidential presidential quotations in the OED

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The Oxford English Dictionary is founded upon millions of quotations, which trace the history of each word starting with its earliest recorded use. America’s presidents are well represented among the authors of those quotations; after all, they are influential speakers and writers whose words are painstakingly recorded and preserved. Presidential quotations often turn up in […]

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