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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

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Remembering the language of Seamus Heaney

When Seamus Heaney’s death was announced last year the prevailing mood was one of sadness; a feeling that the world had not only lost a great poet but a kind and humane man. Thinking about Heaney, as we near what would have been his 75th birthday, I was prompted to revisit his first full-length collection […]

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shapes

Shape up: weird and wonderful words for forms

Sitting in a circle, playing the triangle, being a square – we’re all familiar with common words for shapes (and some of their figurative uses). As you got further in school, you’ll no doubt have learnt more and more shapes – from square and rectangle to rhombus and dodecagon. But words to do with shapes […]

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parakeet-talkative

Worder to prattle box: what to call the talkative person in your life

By popular demand of our Twitter followers, we wanted to share synonyms for ‘talkative person’ from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Historical Thesaurus charts the semantic development of the English language, and is the first comprehensive historical thesaurus produced for any language. With 800,000 words and meanings, in 235,000 entry categories, […]

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New York library

More tales from an OED researcher

More notes from the field, courtesy of your New York researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Tell people you work for the OED, and they seem to think that you have some mystical authority over the use (or misuse) of the language. (I especially like the random Twitter questions – adjudicating biographies, passing muster […]

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bestie-friends

OED quarterly update: March 2014

The latest update to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) saw our team of lexicographers continue their revision of the dictionary, which involves adding new words and phrases, as well as updating existing entries. If you’re interested in why we’re revising the OED and the work it entails, you can find out more here. This quarter’s […]

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planets

Christopher Marlowe in the OED, from planeting to quinquangle

The works of Christopher Marlowe (the playwright, poet, and alleged spy) not only had an influence on William Shakespeare’s early historical plays, but also on the English language itself, as is evident from the number of times his works are quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). His plays and poems are currently quoted a […]

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US Supreme Court

How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?

For 20 years, 14 of those in England, I’ve been giving lectures about the social power afforded to dictionaries, exhorting my students to discard the belief that dictionaries are infallible authorities. The students laugh at my stories about nuns who told me that ain’t couldn’t be a word because it wasn’t in the (school) dictionary […]

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alpine skiing

10 words you need to know for Alpine skiing

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway, and we are celebrating this season of sport in the best way we know how: with words. For the duration of the Games, we are featuring terminology from many of this year’s competed sports. Today’s wordlist primer focuses on: Alpine skiing Are you an avid schussboomer? Whether you […]

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