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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Interview with John Simpson, former Chief Editor of the OED

OED JS cake

John Simpson recently retired as chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Before he left, we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his time at the helm of our historical dictionary. Watch the videos below to learn how life at the OED has changed since John Simpson joined in 1976, […]

A slice of apple’s linguistic history

apple

October is National Apple Month. To celebrate, we’ve got an extract from The Diner’s Dictionary looking at the linguistic life of this humble fruit. The apple was probably the earliest of all fruits to be cultivated by human beings. Its wild ancestor was a sharp, mouth-puckering little thing, like today’s crab apple, and this abel-, […]

The language of Prohibition-era gangsters: knowing your goons from your gumshoes

model t

Although this blog has already covered a number of the interesting words and phrases associated with the speakeasies of 1920’s and early 1930’s America, the period still has a number of gems. As today marks the anniversary of the conviction of notorious Chicago-based gangster Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, what better reason to revisit some of the […]

From Boris Johnson to Oscar Wilde: who is the wittiest of them all?

Dictionary of Humorous Quotations

Today marks the publication of the fifth edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, now under the editorship of broadcaster and former MP Gyles Brandreth. But who is the wittiest of them all? To celebrate this new edition of the Dictionary, Brandreth here reveals the people most quoted in its pages, and also highlights […]

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What would be your Word of the Year for 2013?

WOTY

This time of year is very exciting for those of us working in Oxford Dictionaries as we are starting to think about what our Word of the Year will be for 2013. We’re analysing our databases, interrogating colleagues, and generally looking back over the past year to make a list of the words and expressions […]

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Interactive map: places that shaped the English language

Wordsmiths and Warriors_map

‘If you love history, on your holidays you can visit museums and castles. If you love plants, you can visit botanical gardens. But if you love language, what do you visit?’ In the summer of 2012, supreme language-lovers David and Hilary Crystal set off on a tour round Britain, visiting 57 sites associated with key […]

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Talk Like A Pirate Day: pirate phrases and their origins

Jolly_roger

Be it from the pages of Treasure Island, the exploits of Captain Jack Sparrow on the silver screen, or the Guybrush Threepwood’s adventures on Monkey Island, the fictional pirate has long held a fascination for landlubbers everywhere. On this International Talk Like A Pirate Day, we take a look at a few of the words […]

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Words with Friends: the language of a sitcom

New York skyline

Having been one of the most-watched programmes on television for 236 episodes over ten years from 1994-2004, it was inevitable that Friends would leave its mark on the linguistic landscape, both in its native USA and elsewhere. From Chandler’s distinctive vocal inflections – “could I be any more sorry?” – to Joey’s “How you doin’?” […]

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