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?
- Talking proper: the language of U and Non-U
- Feeling bright? 8 historical synonyms for ‘clever’
- Gallery: new quotations in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
- America’s war on language
- The peculiar history of cows in the OED
- How I created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones
- What do you call a group of…
- 20 words that originated in the 1920s
- How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?
- Infographic: a closer look at ‘selfie’
- What the Romans did for us: English words of Latin origin
- Why did Tolkien use archaic language?
Word of the Day: flagitious - (of a person or their actions) criminal; villainous... oxford.ly/Zqn0g4
We investigate the mechanisms of totalitarianism in Nineteen Eighty-Four’s fictional language ‘Newspeak’: oxford.ly/1DUPbTY
ICYMI: Word of the Day: bouffant - styled to stand out in a rounded shape... oxford.ly/1CCxpDb
Find out how language becomes an instrument of oppression in Orwell’s dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four: oxford.ly/1DUPbTY
Historical terms for 'drunk' include pottical, swacked, & malty. Learn more historical synonyms for everyday words: oxford.ly/1v3rOTW