My Fair Lady, a musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion, was first performed on Broadway in 1956, and has been in performance somewhere in the world almost ever since. Telling the tale of how London phonetics professor Henry Higgins gives cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle speech lessons in order to pass her […]
My dad introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse when I was a teenager. Not for a moment did it occur to him that a 14-year-old girl whose first language was Afrikaans and who had never left the African continent might not find immediate resonance with Bertie Wooster, Lord Ickenham, Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps, Gussie Fink-Nottle, and co., or […]
In a previous piece, I looked at some guidelines for writing plain English: that is, the kind of English that will get your intended meaning across most clearly. Here, I take you through an example. Warning: Instructions may contain lethal sesquipedalian lexemes There are times when clear writing can make the difference between life and […]
Today is ‘Embrace your geekness’ day. In this article we look at the word ‘geek’, pit the geeks against the nerds, and geek out over the Oxford English Corpus – the language analysis tool used by Oxford’s dictionary-makers. The Oxford Dictionaries blog has looked at the word geek before. Of course it has: we openly […]
Ever since I first read an ancient edition of Ernest Gowers’ book on plain English about fifteen years ago, I’ve tried to put his guidelines into practice whenever I write. I don’t always get it right – I’m sure you’ll catch me out in this piece of writing – but I always try. What is […]
Last week saw the 108th birthday of Dr Seuss, the pen-name of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904–1991). An American writer of hugely successful books for children, he was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937) introduced Seuss’s iconic visual and verbal style. This was further extended in the […]
The abbreviations Mr and Mrs are in common use, and are straightforward to pronounce when we see them written down: an approximation would be ‘mister’ and ‘missus’. But what are they abbreviations of? We seldom, if ever, write them out in full – and most of us probably never stop to think what the full […]
The Latin days of the week in imperial Rome were named after the planets, which in turn were named after gods. These names were adopted in translated form by the English and other Germanic peoples. In most cases the Germanic names have substituted the Roman god’s name with that of a comparable one from the […]
- Affect versus effect
- Grammar myths #2: please miss, can I start a sentence with a conjunction?
- OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?
- Lie or lay? Laying down the law on some puzzling verbs
- Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?
- Compliment or complement?
- Rein or reign? Hold your horses before applying pen to paper…
- Principle or principal?
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…
- Which classical character are you?
- On the radar: July 2014
- Fedoras to mullets: decades of fashion words
- The peculiar history of cows in the OED
- How I created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones
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- Can -core survive normcore?
- 20 words that originated in the 1920s
- How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?
- Farmily album: the rise of the felfie
- Language review 2013: from bitcoin to sharknado
- Infographic: a closer look at ‘selfie’
- What the Romans did for us: English words of Latin origin
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The new edition of the ODQ was published today. Read what its editor has to say about it: oxford.ly/1uJQ65k
‘Especially’ or ‘specially’? oxford.ly/1ne77mT
Test your knowledge of ‘its’ vs ‘it's’ with our quick quiz: oxford.ly/HUTw0H
On 18 September 1709, Samuel Johnson was born. In a post from our archive, we celebrate the man and his work: oxford.ly/OCCZAu