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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Should we be happy that the English language is changing?

Once upon a time

‘When you come to those parts of the body which are not usually mentioned,’ C. S. Lewis once said, ‘you will have to make a choice of vocabulary. And you will find that you have only four alternatives: a nursery word, an archaism, a word from the gutter, or a scientific word. You will not […]

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Hammer of the gods: the lyrics of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Confession: I grew up in the 1990s. I admit freely that the only musical artists I knew for a while were N’Sync, the Spice Girls, and Blink-182. But then one day I heard a song called Dazed and Confused by a little band named Led Zeppelin and— after several jaw-dropping minutes of that insanely heavy […]

We need to talk about literally

Literally

Hold the front pages, literally. Or not. There has been much excitement this week over the discovery that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has recorded a sense of the word literally that seems to cause particular irritation. I am speaking of its use in a sentence like “I literally died laughing and had to run […]

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Should ‘tweeps’ be in the dictionary?

twitter birds

“NO” and even, “NOOOOOO!” were some of the more emphatic reactions of many of Library Journal’s and Oxford University Press’s (OUP) Twitter followers who were recently posed with the question, “Should ‘tweeps’ be in the dictionary?” OUP asked the question ahead of the publisher’s June 18 webcast, hosted by Library Journal, which explored how social […]

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Language play in noms de plume and stage names, from Bono to the Brontës

noms de plume

With the discovery that mystery writer Robert Galbraith and Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling are one and the same, the massively successful novelist has become one of many known popular fiction writers—including Stephen King and Anne Rice—to employ a nom de plume, or pen name, masking the true identity behind their work. There are several […]

Aha! Alan Partridge in the OED

Alan_partridge2

There are many places you might expect to find a quotation from Alan Partridge – perhaps on the North Norfolk Digital website or in the Norwich Evening News expressing his views on the pedestrianization of the city centre – but the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is probably not the first place you’d look. However, quotations […]

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Video: A Very Short Introduction to Dictionaries

Dictionaries A Very Short Intro

Enjoy a whistle-stop tour of the history of dictionaries by Lynda Mugglestone, the author of Dictionaries: A Very Short Introduction, as she succinctly explains why we shouldn’t underestimate the dictionary. And find out which wonderful word means: ‘one whose hair was never cut’.   Follow the Very Short Introductions series on Facebook

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Henry Bradley: ‘sméaþoncol mon’

Henry Bradley

In the second instalment of an ongoing series on some of the Oxford English Dictionary’s editors, following on from an article about James Murray, Peter Gilliver looks at the life, work, and legacy of Henry Bradley. An obituary is often the place where people first really find out about a person. In the case of Henry Bradley, the […]

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