No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member— No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,— November! That was the poet Thomas Hood’s view of November in 1844, and things don’t seem to have improved much in 168 years. So here to add […]
October 16 is the anniversary of the birthday of Oscar Wilde, described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography simply as ‘writer’ but also one of the stalwarts of dictionaries of quotations. Indeed, he even appears as the subject of some quotations – as Dorothy Parker said: If, with the literate, I am Impelled to […]
With the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee in full swing, it is perhaps a good moment to look back at some other long-serving monarchs of the British Isles. Inevitably, those who rule for a long time come to the throne early: Queen Victoria was 18 at her accession, and was described by Thomas […]
In May 1979 the United Kingdom elected its first female Prime Minister, in spite of her own comment ten years earlier: ‘No woman in my time will be Prime Minister or Chancellor or Foreign Secretary—not the top jobs. Anyway I wouldn’t want to be Prime Minister. You have to give yourself 100%’. A few years […]
‘Famous last words’ in the literal sense means someone’s final remarks before they die, but the phrase is often said as an ironic comment on an overconfident assertion that may later be proved wrong. A classic example of the two senses combined is the case of the Union general John Sedgwick, whose last words immediately […]
One of the most interesting aspects of working with quotations is seeing how words from one occasion are applicable to another. The recent controversy over the sale of Forestry Commission land brought to mind the words of the poet William Blake, writing over 200 years ago: ‘The tree which moves some to tears of […]
- Affect versus effect
- Grammar myths #2: please miss, can I start a sentence with a conjunction?
- Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?
- Lie or lay? Laying down the law on some puzzling verbs
- Compliment or complement?
- OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?
- Principle or principal?
- Rein or reign? Hold your horses before applying pen to paper…
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is… vape
- Video: acronyms and initialisms – what’s the difference?
- Feeling bright? 8 historical synonyms for ‘clever’
- Gallery: new quotations in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
- America’s war on language
- The peculiar history of cows in the OED
- What do you call a group of…
- 20 words that originated in the 1920s
- How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?
- What the Romans did for us: English words of Latin origin
- Why did Tolkien use archaic language?
Make sure you know when to use lay, lie, laid, and lain: bit.ly/1aErWuT
A call for creative types: have you entered our Word of the Day short story competition? oxford.ly/1IImxYw
Word of the Day: terpsichorean - relating to dancing... oxford.ly/1xsbjUC
What’s in a name? Bob’s your uncle and other curious expressions: oxford.ly/1DQbcpp