Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Simon Thomas

Simon Thomas works for Oxford Dictionaries.

Articles by Simon Thomas


1920s

20 words that originated in the 1920s

The 1920s wasn’t just a period of decadence and flappers in a post-war haze of happiness. While The Great Gatsby drew attention to a world of insouciant pleasure-seeking, the 1920s also saw plenty of words enter the language. Some seem apt for the era, some might surprise, and all twenty selected below have survived for […]

railway track

Word histories: conscious uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (better known as an Oscar-winning actress and the Grammy-winning lead singer of Coldplay respectively) recently announced that they would be separating. While the news of any separation is sad, we can’t deny that the report also carried some linguistic interest. In the announcement, on Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop, the pair […]

artichokes

Artichokes to zucchinis: a vegetarian alphabet

I’ve been a vegetarian for a little over half my life, and I know certain struggles that vegetarians have to put up with. But one area we don’t struggle with is language. I decided to take a mosey through various words connected with vegetables and vegetarianism, and discovered that the produce aisle at the supermarket […]

book quiz

Book quiz: can you identify these classic novels by their working titles?

If someone were to ask you whether or not you’d read Trimalchio in West Egg, your first instinct might be to say ‘no’, and your second might be to marvel at the curious range of titles given to cookery books nowadays. Sorry to say, you’re possibly wrong on both counts – you might well have […]

twins

Make mine a double: speaking of twins

As a twin, I spent my childhood being called the wrong name. I still turn around if I hear someone say ‘Colin’, which can be difficult to explain to people who have no idea about my not-so-secret double. Truth be told, I never found that particular mishap as annoying as “Can you read each other’s […]

Which Dickens character are you

Which Charles Dickens character are you?

Charles Dickens is one of the country’s best-loved and most influential authors. Even if you’ve never read one of his novels, the chances are that you are familiar with a host of his characters. His novels have been adapted into hundreds of films, from David Lean’s renowned Great Expectations (1946) to The Muppet’s Christmas Carol […]

flash_mob

5 (more) words that are older than you think

Every year words are invented or have surges of popularity – some stand the test of time, and remain in dictionaries of current English – and some quietly retreat into the pages of historical dictionaries. Perhaps it is encouraging, to anybody anxious about the seeming surge of new words which enter the world’s vocabulary every […]

baking

The winner bakes it all: the language of the Great British Bake Off

In 2010, when I started watching a BBC2 programme about baking sponge cakes, I assumed it would be one of the many things which marked me out as a social pariah, along with talking to cats and preferring books to people. Yet this evening the fourth series of the Great British Bake Off is coming […]

Tweets