Simon Thomas

Simon Thomas works in Marketing for Oxford Dictionaries.

Articles by Simon Thomas


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 […]

Plurals and singulars: what is the singular of clothes?

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 […]

shoes

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 […]

There are many tree idioms in English.

Tree idioms and phrases

Let’s have a look at some phrases and idioms inspired by trees. Out on a limb Chances are, unless you’re a tree surgeon or horticulturist, that the word limb makes you think first of arms and legs. If you’ve ever tried to rationalize the expression out on a limb (which means ‘in a position where one […]

maths

Putting two and two together: mathematical expressions

As somebody who loves words and English literature, I have often been assumed to be a natural enemy of the mathematical mind. And, if we’re being honest, my days of calculus and the hypotenuse are behind me, but, with those qualifications under my belt, I did learn that the worlds of words and numbers are […]

queen_large

Language fit for a queen

British queens – whether monarchs in their own right or married to a king – have had an impact on English language, as befits royalty. Perhaps most obvious is the use of their names to refer to historical periods (such as the Victorian or Elizabethan eras), but that is far from their only legacy to […]

English is filled with apple idioms

A list of apple idioms

Let’s have a look at the role of apple idioms in the English language… Good and bad apples Apples in expressions often seem to be used as an equivalent for the word thing or person. Somebody can be described as a good apple, bad apple, or rotten apple, and New York City even becomes the Big […]

Bob's your uncle? He's a smart Alec? Why do certain names appear in expressions?

Bob’s your uncle and other name expressions

If you’ve ever said Bob’s your uncle or called someone a smart Alec, you might have asked yourself: why do certain names appear in common English expressions? While several (such as Champagne Charlie, Billy-No-Mates, and Nosey Parker) began life as fictional characters in popular culture, others apparently refer to real individuals. We explore some of […]

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