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

Category: English in use

Why did the zebra cross the road? The language of driving in the US and UK

Why did the zebra cross the road? The language of driving in the US and UK

In the UK’s not-too-distant past, it was possible for most any Tom, Dick, or Harry (with a little money) to plunk himself down in the driver’s seat of an automobile, turn on the ignition, and zip around to his heart’s content—without ever having taken a test. Collective shudder. So I think we can all be […]

‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’, find out what it means to me

‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’, find out what it means to me

Most of us can rattle off the ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ bit of Aretha Franklin’s signature tune, but how much do you know about the rest of the lyrics? See if you can fill in the blank below: I’m about to give you all of my money, And all I’m askin’ in return, honey, Is to give me […]

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 […]

Bigger and stronger hearts: poetry and memory

Bigger and stronger hearts: poetry and memory

Oxford University Press is partnered with The Poetry Archive to support Poetry by Heart, a new national poetry competition in England which will see thousands of students aged 14 to 18 competing to become national champion for their skill in memorising and reciting poems by heart. OUP will provide free content from OED Online, the […]

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Who cares about English? Part 2

Who cares about English? Part 2

We at the Oxford English Dictionary recently partnered with the British Council to host a panel discussion entitled ‘Who cares about English?’ The panel was chaired by John Knagg, Head of English Research at the British Council, and consisted of: John Simpson, Chief Editor of the OED Romesh Gunesekera, Booker prize shortlisted novelist Henry Hitchings, […]

Oscar said it

handbag

A man who does not think for himself does not think at all So wrote the inimitable Oscar Wilde in The Soul of Man Under Socialism. It’s not an accusation that could be levelled at the man himself. Only 27 years after his death, another inimitable wit, this time Dorothy Parker, published her famous epigram, demonstrating that […]

The wearin’ (and speakin’) o’ the green

The wearin' (and speakin') o' the Green

Every month evokes a certain characteristic (January is cold, May brings flowers), but no month is more connected to a single color than March. The color, of course, is green. The onset of spring obviously plays into that, but as anyone in upstate New York could point out, the “spring greenness” of March is often […]

My Fair Lady: simple phonetics and pygmalion words

My Fair Lady: simple phonetics and pygmalion words

My Fair Lady, a musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion, was first performed on Broadway in 1956, and has been in performance somewhere in the world almost ever since. Telling the tale of how London phonetics professor Henry Higgins gives cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle speech lessons in order to pass her […]

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