Simon Thomas

Simon Thomas works in Marketing for Oxford Dictionaries.

Articles by Simon Thomas


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 […]

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 […]

bug

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 […]

church

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 […]

How did we end up with these ocean names?

How the oceans got their names

Let’s take 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 which the ancient Greeks believed to […]

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