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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Solve-it-yourself mysteries #94: the crossword

Solve-it-yourself mysteries #94: the crossword

“Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! ‘The Cross Word Puzzle Book’ is out today.” – F. P. Adams, ‘The Conning Tower’, New York World In April 1924, Simon and Schuster burst onto the New York publishing scene with The Cross Word Puzzle Book, which soon became a bestseller. The crossword was ten years old at the time, and had been gaining […]

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Johnson and Grose: lexicography’s odd couple

Johnson and Grose: lexicography's odd couple

April 15 marks the anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755), a work that’s today universally recognized as an astonishing feat of solo lexicography. The publication, in 1755, rightly attracted great attention; David Garrick wrote a poetic eulogy to mark the achievement in the Public Advertiser, describing Johnson as ‘like a hero […]

Volcanoes in the OED

Volcanoes in the OED

Within the dictionary offices, we refer to the Oxford English Dictionary‘s recently revised and updated batch of words as the blue batch, as blue is the leading headword. Colour words are often big entries, involving many different subject areas. Here, we have natural history (bluebell, blueberry, and blue heron, to name but three), country music (bluegrass), fashion (or not) (blue jeans, blue […]

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Music to my ears: 5 composers and how to pronounce them

piano

How many foreign languages can you Handel? Shall we make a Liszt? Ok, ok, we’ll stop before you start Chopin our heads off. All punnery aside, clicking through the pages of a music dictionary like Grove Music Online, one is presented with a wide selection of head-scratching-inducing names. Here are some of our favorites: Camille […]

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Better the weather you know: proverbs and quotations about the weather

Better the weather you know: proverbs and quotations about the weather

22 March is World Water Day, and 23 March is World Meteorological Day, so what better time to celebrate our fascination with foreboding forecasts? Threatening thunderstorms and disconcerting downpours crop up time and time again in popular proverbs and quotations, and not least because of the abundance of words that rhyme with ‘rain’. Perhaps the […]

David Crystal’s favourite words

Favourite words?

What’s your favourite word? It’s a difficult question for anyone to answer, but it’s even trickier if you’re a leading expert on the English language. David Crystal is one of the world’s greatest authorities on the English language and has written many books on the subject. The forthcoming book Wordsmiths and Warriors by David and Hilary […]

Early Grey: The results of the OED Appeal on Earl Grey tea

c.1928 History of Feminine Fashion (House of Worth), advertising front matter

Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845), was born on 13 March. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the early 1830s, but is most famous today for his association with Earl Grey tea, a type of China tea flavoured with the citrus extract bergamot. But did Earl Grey ever actually drink Earl […]

Whale-horses and morses: Tolkien and the walrus in the OED

Whale-horses and Morses: the Walrus in the OED

With the once-in-a-lifetime visit by a young male walrus to the island of North Ronaldsay in Orkney making the news on 3 March, it seems like a good time to look back at the coincidence of one particularly famous Oxford lexicographer’s tussle with the history of the word ‘walrus’, and an earlier visit by a […]

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