Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Stork and bundle

Labouring language: the changing vocabulary of childbirth

Expectant parents don’t generally have a lot of spare time for idly perusing the dictionary, but if they did, they would find that the vocabulary of the event they joyfully anticipate has undergone significant changes over the centuries. Consider, for instance, the verb to deliver. In contemporary use, the mother is often the subject of […]

John Simpson - Chief Editor OED

Cricket and the Queen Mum: the OED’s Chief Editor discusses some fascinating words

Yesterday it was announced that John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, will be retiring in October 2013. The full press release can be read on the OED website, and it seems an appropriate time to ask John Simpson to discuss some of the more fascinating words and expressions he has worked on: It’s hard […]

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Play ball!

Play ball!

In spring, as the saying goes, “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to love.” Who first penned that immortal mush, anyway? You well-read literary types probably know it was Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem “Locksley Hall,” and I suppose that was romantic of him, but the way I see it, when love becomes a […]

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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piano

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

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 […]

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