Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

emoji language

Beyond words: how language-like is emoji?

The decision by Oxford Dictionaries to select an emoji as the 2015 Word of the Year has led to incredulity in some quarters. Hannah Jane Parkinson, writing in The Guardian, and doubtless speaking for many, brands the decision ‘ridiculous’ — after all, an emoji is, self-evidently, not a word; so the wagging fingers seem to […]

Read more »
Bond villain Blofeld and his cat

11 acronyms that are actually ‘backronyms’

Everyone knows what an acronym is – an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word, like ‘NASA’ or ‘NATO’ – but not all know what a ‘backronym’ is. While acronyms are formed from phrases or names that exist beforehand, a backronym is an acronym deliberately created to suit […]

Read more »
murray children

Did you know that James Murray… had eleven children, all of whom helped in the compilation of the OED?

2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life […]

Read more »
three dogs

8 great band name origins

One thing that rock bands are known for are their creative names. There’s the legendary name of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, named for Florida high school gym teacher Leonard Skinner who taught several of the band’s members, and who was remembered for enforcing the high school’s rule about no long hair on men. There’s […]

Read more »

Preparing for Bonfire Night: which word would you burn?

This survey is now closed. Thank you for your contributions! What’s your least favourite word? As Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night) approaches, we’d like to know which word you’d turn into an effigy. Bonfire Night is celebrated on 5 November in the UK; bonfires and fireworks are lit in memory of the […]

Read more »
The origins of four NBA teams: the Knicks, the Mavericks, the Jazz, and the Raptors.

4 weird origins of NBA team names

Some of the team names in the National Basketball League (NBA) are fairly straightforward about their origins. It doesn’t take a team historian, for instance, to explain why the team in Phoenix – a city known for its hot desert climate – is called the Suns, or why the team in Orlando – famously the […]

Read more »
A group of people giving thumbs up.

22 ways to say yes

The word yes is great and all … but there’s plenty of other ways you can offer someone a verbal go-ahead. So if you feel like dipping your toes into the wild waters of alternative affirmations, then take a gander at the list below. If you’re feeling brave, deploy an aye aye in a business […]

Read more »
OED update notes

Words from all over the lot: notes on the OED update

It’s OED update time again, and as usual, we’ve got words from all over the lot for you, from a new-old sense of waterbuck (meaning an aquatic insect, possibly a pond-skater), recorded in a single thousand-year-old quotation, to a sense of waterball (‘a transparent inflatable sphere which can be propelled across water by a person […]

Read more »