Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

quotations

Borrowed words: editing the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

I have been Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for over 15 years, and the interest of the work is as keen as ever. The joy of ODQ is that its content (based firmly on what is being quoted) is unpredictable and uncontrollable: no-one, however cleverly they craft a current soundbite, can ensure that […]

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american flag

America’s war on language

2014 marks the centennial of World War I, time to take a closer look at one of its offshoots, America’s little-known War on Language. In April, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. In addition to sending troops to fight in Europe, Americans waged war on the language of the enemy at home. German was […]

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dog chewing

From chavel to mumble: 10 unusual synonyms for ‘chew’

Do you manducate? Do you chavel? The chances are the answer is ‘yes’ to both these questions; they are both synonyms for chew. Taking a look in the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, we’ve come up with 10 unusual words you can use in place of chew next time you’re chomping on your […]

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beer last call

From First World problems to last calls: notes on the OED update

Katherine Connor Martin, Head of US Dictionaries, takes a closer look some of the new additions in this quarter’s update to the OED. Today’s quarterly update is devoted to the revision of several core words in the vocabulary of English, including high and low, fact, case, day, week, group, and company. The new versions of […]

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cliches

Quiz: how well do you know your clichés?

When we think of clichés, we often think of a phrase that is trite and hackneyed, a person who stereotypically conforms to social constructs and labels, or something that is predictable and lacks ingenuity. The word cliché is of French origin, and originally meant a stereotype block bearing text that was used to produce multiple […]

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Video: how do new words get added to Oxford Dictionaries?

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cows in the oed

The peculiar history of cows in the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has hundreds of words that relate to cows. For most English speakers, the idea that anyone would need so many words for one specific animal probably seems absurd. Especially cows. Perhaps it’s their mysterious ubiquity throughout children’s books and TV shows or just the dull empty look in their eyes, […]

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Thackeray word cloud2

Snobs and brain cracks: Thackeray in the OED

William Makepeace Thackeray was born on 18 July 1811, and before his death just over fifty years later he had written over thirty-five works. These include Catherine (1839-40), Pendennis (1848-50), and The Book of Snobs (1848) – the last of which popularized (and is currently the earliest known evidence for) the sense of snob as ‘a person who admires […]

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