Simon Thomas

Simon Thomas works in Marketing for Oxford Dictionaries.

Articles by Simon Thomas

OMG cat

X factor, and 8 other words that are older than you think

We’ve looked a few times at words that are older than you think, and the series continues apace: here are nine further words that you might think are recent additions to the language, but have actually been spoken and written for rather longer than you may imagine. X factor (1930) The TV show didn’t invent […]

8 words that are younger than you think

8 words that are younger than you think

Having teased you several times with words that are older than you think, we thought we’d turn the tables and look at some that have a surprisingly brief history. Of course, older information may turn up to provide antedatings – but, as things stand, these words have entered the English language later than you might […]


Critters, jitters, and transmitters: the history of ‘bug’

Bug has various common uses, and none of them are particularly pleasant. Whether you’ve come down with a bug, found a bug on your phone, worried about the Millennium bug, or been bitten by a bug, you’re unlikely to welcome the bug into your life. But how did the word come to mean such disparate […]


Words you learn at the vicarage

I share something in common with Jane Austen, Tori Amos, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Vincent van Gogh: I am the child of a clergyman. Growing up in a Church of England vicarage has given me insights to faith, diplomacy, and how best to run a coffee morning – but it’s also a window into a very […]


Water, water, everywhere: how we named the oceans

Happy World Oceans Day! To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the linguistic roots of the world’s five oceans. Before we start, what of ocean itself? The word comes to English via Latin from the Greek ōkeanos, which meant ‘great stream encircling the earth’s disc’. The word ocean originally denoted the whole body of water […]

clothes cat

12 nouns that are always plurals

If you, like me, are a half-ashamed watcher of various fashion reality shows, you might be familiar with phrases like I’d like to pair this with a navy pant or Maybe a smoky eye and a red lip. There is an assumption of an implied plural when the singular versions of these words are used […]


Something’s afoot: investigating the names for shoes

Whether you’re a shoe aficionado or somebody who regards footwear as merely something to help avoid standing on nails, you might be interested in the etymological backgrounds to the names of some common varieties of shoe. We’ve taken five of them, and traced their – perhaps surprising – linguistic histories… Clog You probably know that […]


Branching out: tree idioms and phrases

Many countries around the world have days on which citizens, companies, and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. These are usually observed in spring – which, of course, is at different times of year depending upon hemisphere – and the last Friday of April is National Arbor Day in the US. The […]