Simon Thomas

Simon Thomas works in Marketing for Oxford Dictionaries.

Articles by Simon Thomas


Maybe

15 ways to say ‘maybe’

We’ve already given you the lowdown on the many and various ways you can say ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and now we want to liven up the vocabulary of the less committed. What happens if you want to stay on the fence and say ‘maybe’? Don’t worry; we’ve got your back. Peradventure Archaic or humorous now, […]

Pairs of words that share an etymology

Unlikely couples: 8 pairs of words you didn’t know shared an etymology

Like an extended family with some unsuspected relations, sometimes you come across words which have very different modern-day meanings but unexpectedly share an etymological element in their background. salad / salary Salad and salary obviously have a lot of letters in common, but which other word unites the two? Perhaps surprisingly, it’s salt – or, […]

back-formations

The hypocrisy of hating back-formations

Does the verb incent make you grind your teeth? Can you cope with enthuse? Does spectate rankle? There are plenty of purported language purists in the world with a professed distaste for back-formations; those who would much rather stick with provide with an incentive, express enthusiasm, and be a spectator. Do they have a point? […]

Dad's Army

10 words you need to know before watching Dad’s Army

A while ago I tried to explain to my American colleague why the words “Don’t tell him, Pike” would bring a wry smile to any Brit’s face. I don’t think I succeeded brilliantly. If you’re not familiar, the clip below will let you know what I’m talking about – sorry for spoiling the punchline – […]

London tube names

London Underground: the origins of some unusual names

Have you ever wondered how some of the more unusual sounding tube stops in London got their name? Taking a look at the origins of London Underground stations’ names is, of course, pretty much the same as exploring the origins of place names: almost all of them are named after the areas they serve. Locals […]

month names

How did the months get their names?

As the new year starts you might have recently bought a new diary or calendar and thought ‘Where do these words come from?’ – at least that’s what I did. There is also, of course, also the chance that you have been merrily scheduling in gym appointments and book clubs and all sorts of other […]

Any idea where the Seven Dwarfs' names come from?

The names of the Seven Dwarfs

The Brothers Grimm tale Snow White is, of course, extremely well known – as are the seven dwarfs that take her in when she escapes her evil stepmother. (Dwarves or dwarfs? Well, the plural of dwarf can actually be either.) You can probably name them all, or at least get to six and spend the […]

blurry british flag

Quiz: British phrases to confuse Americans

If you’ve watched non-Americans get confused while trying our recent ‘American phrases to confuse Brits‘ quiz, now it’s time to turn the tables. Even Anglophiles might struggle with some of the more unusual or idiomatic expressions Brits use in everyday life – particularly those with obscure origins. Pleased with your score? Disappointed? Why not have […]

Tweets