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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Better the weather you know: proverbs and quotations about the weather

Better the weather you know: proverbs and quotations about the weather

22 March is World Water Day, and 23 March is World Meteorological Day, so what better time to celebrate our fascination with foreboding forecasts? Threatening thunderstorms and disconcerting downpours crop up time and time again in popular proverbs and quotations, and not least because of the abundance of words that rhyme with ‘rain’. Perhaps the […]

David Crystal’s favourite words

Favourite words?

What’s your favourite word? It’s a difficult question for anyone to answer, but it’s even trickier if you’re a leading expert on the English language. David Crystal is one of the world’s greatest authorities on the English language and has written many books on the subject. The forthcoming book Wordsmiths and Warriors by David and Hilary […]

Early Grey: The results of the OED Appeal on Earl Grey tea

c.1928 History of Feminine Fashion (House of Worth), advertising front matter

Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845), was born on 13 March. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the early 1830s, but is most famous today for his association with Earl Grey tea, a type of China tea flavoured with the citrus extract bergamot. But did Earl Grey ever actually drink Earl […]

Whale-horses and morses: Tolkien and the walrus in the OED

Whale-horses and Morses: the Walrus in the OED

With the once-in-a-lifetime visit by a young male walrus to the island of North Ronaldsay in Orkney making the news on 3 March, it seems like a good time to look back at the coincidence of one particularly famous Oxford lexicographer’s tussle with the history of the word ‘walrus’, and an earlier visit by a […]

Braggadocious? Never. Just excited about the Oxford Dictionaries February 2013 update!

Braggadocious? Never. Just excited about the Oxford Dictionaries February 2013 update!

“Having a mare of a week? With hump day over, the weekend is in sight and it’s time to start thinking about getting blootered on appletinis! Or do you prefer to put on your schlumpy clothes and curl up with a tray bake? My tortie has a more tweetable Friday night than that. But you […]

What the Nobel laureates did for us

What the Nobel laureates did for us

19 February isn’t a great day, should you happen to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chances are, you might meet your maker – Nobel laureates André Gide and Knut Hamsun both died on 19 February, in 1951 and 1952 respectively. And that’s before we widen the net to other Nobel Prizes (step forward […]

A Minor case: OED contributions from a prison cell

Minor slip - guzz

17 February will mark a significant date in the annals of the Oxford English Dictionary. 17 February 1872 was the date on which a Dr. William Chester Minor, American army surgeon, shot and killed George Merrett in the early hours of the morning on a gloomy Lambeth street. Not an auspicious date, granted, but Minor […]

When does ‘wrong’ become ‘right’?

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People can go a bit funny when I tell them I edit dictionaries for a living. They get nervous and hesitant, as if they’re expecting me to leap on them at any moment, mock their use of grammar, laugh cruelly at their mispronunciations, and pour scorn on their woefully limited vocabulary. But nothing could be […]

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