Category: English in use

names_large

What’s in a name? Bob’s your uncle and other curious expressions

If you’ve ever said Bob’s your uncle or called someone a smart Alec, you might have asked yourself: why do certain names appear in common English expressions? While several (such as Champagne Charlie, Billy-No-Mates, and Nosey Parker) began life as fictional characters in popular culture, others apparently refer to real individuals. We explore some of […]

Read more »
donut_large

Embiggening English: The Simpsons and changing language

The first episode of The Simpsons aired twenty-five years ago, on 17 December, 1989, and since then, English has never been the same. Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and their friends in Springfield, Wherever-it-is, have given us fancy words of pure invention, worthy of Lewis Carroll, like cromulent ‘legitimate, but not really’, and words built from […]

Read more »
Hanukkah menora

How do you spell Chanukah? (Hanukkah? Hanukah? Chanukkah?)

Each winter, as the Jewish festival of lights approaches, English speakers grapple with the question of how to spell its name. The Oxford English Corpus records at least 13 different contemporary spellings, and there are even more in the historical evidence. While the vowels of the word (-a-u-a-) remain constant, there is wide variation in […]

Read more »
Seinfeld jerk store

The Jerk Store called…and called and called

Seinfeld famously added a ton of terms to English, such as low talker, high talker, spongeworthy, and unshushables. It also made obscure terms into household words. Shrinkage and yadda yadda yadda existed before Seinfeld, but it’s doubtful you learned them anywhere else. Another successful Seinfeld term has gone under the radar: Jerk Store. The term was coined in “The Comeback,” when George is unselfconsciously stuffing his face with […]

Read more »
squirrel_large

9 interesting word facts you didn’t know

The English language has a varied and ever changing vocabulary, which makes it an ideal candidate for etymological studies. In this list below, we take a look at the interesting histories of some common English words. For more interesting word facts and origins, browse the ‘Explore’ section on OxfordDictionaries.com, or follow @OxfordWords and @OED on […]

Read more »
Psy's music video for his song "Gangnam Style" topped 2.15 quintillion views in early December, forcing YouTube engineers to change the upper limit of the view counter.

Psy, YouTube, and quintillion: “Gangnam Style” and gargantuan numbers

In early December 2014, South Korean musician Psy’s music video for his song “Gangnam Style” exceeded YouTube’s upper view limit, having accumulated over 2,147,483,647 views; more than the view counter had been set to track. The video’s success spurred engineers at YouTube to reset the counter with a new upper limit of 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, or more […]

Read more »

Video: what rhymes with orange?

Read more »
pyramids_large

8 phrases that come from Exodus

The film Exodus, directed by Ridley Scott and released this month, is part of a continuing trend of depicting the Bible on screen. Noah was released earlier in 2014, and Christian scripture has long provided material for the silver screen – from The Passion of the Christ and The Ten Commandments to (more tangentially) Monty Python’s […]

Read more »

Tweets