Katherine Connor Martin

Katherine Connor Martin

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

Articles by Katherine Connor Martin

cold war

George Orwell and the origin of the term ‘cold war’

On 19 October 1945  George Orwell used the term cold war in his essay ‘You and the Atom Bomb’,  speculating on the repercussions of the atomic age which had begun two months before when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. In this article, Orwell considered the social and political implications of ‘a […]

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 […]

political insults_edit

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 […]