Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Wild West

From cottage-garden to Wild West: Charlotte Brontë and the OED

Charlotte Brontë is renowned around the world for her 1847 novel Jane Eyre. With an intelligent and impassioned heroine, a handsome and ruthless hero, and (spoiler alert) something unexpected in the attic, the book has captured the imagination of readers for generation after generation. Less widely known, but still much-loved by many readers, are her […]

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shutterstock_137388731

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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