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

Category: English in use

“Add it up, it all spells ‘duh’”: the language of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

“Add it up, it all spells ‘duh’”: the language of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

Someone called James Marsters turns fifty this week. If you’ve never heard of him, that’s not surprising. Outside the fandom of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer he is, in his own words, ‘just another actor’. But if you’re one of the fans, then the idea that Spike is turning fifty might be giving you […]

What kind of writer are you?

What kind of writer are you?

Writing styles are as distinct as personality traits—and debates about which way of writing is “best” can often be just as volatile. Where one writer might luxuriate in the complexities and varieties of the lexicon, another might prefer to tell it like it is in the most familiar way possible. Such was the case, in […]

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From rockabilly to mathcore: exploring the cultural and linguistic blending of popular music genres

From rockability to mathcore: exploring the cultural and linguistic blending of popular music genres

The language of music has never been more nimble. With fusion genres like nu metal, trip hop, acid jazz, and synthpop having emerged over the last thirty years or so, it’s no surprise that our music vocabulary has expanded. And since we here at the OxfordWords blog love our portmanteaus, it only seems right to […]

Using food for thought: Intellectual hunger, thirst, and omnivorous behaviors

Using food for thought: Intellectual hunger, thirst, and omnivorous behaviors

We search for things to read to satiate our intellectual hunger or quench our thirst for knowledge. A favorite of mine is the phrase that someone is ‘intellectually omnivorous’, meaning that their intellectual diet consists of all (omni-) types of brain foods. Junkier ideas which are sweet and appealing are called brain candy. Brain candy […]

Red and yellow and pink and green…

Red and yellow and pink and green

Many of us learn the colours of the rainbow from an early age, but have you ever wondered where the names for the different shades we see around us come from? The origins of many of the words for the colours of the visible spectrum go back far in time, and are ultimately unknown. But […]

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Meddling with nouns: who’s medalling now?

Meddling with nouns: who’s medalling now?

In the last fortnight, the Oxford English Dictionary saw a massive spike in searches for the verb ‘medal’.  Searches for ‘medal’ on our free Oxford Dictionaries Online site also increased dramatically at the end of July and have remained high for two weeks. While we at Oxford Dictionaries couldn’t possibly comment on the reason for […]

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09 Aug - Collective nouns- Large

Who decides on the right collective noun for something?

  The short answer is no one. While some languages, such as Spanish, French, and German, are ruled by committee there is no academy or governing body that decides on how English should evolve. Indeed English has never been under the administrative rule of a language academy. A keeper of English, according to the eighteenth-century […]

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German loanwords in the English language

German loanwords in the English language

Cockroach, lantern, algebra, sabbath – these are only a few of the loanwords that we use in the English language without them striking us as being particularly unusual. Appropriately, ‘loanword’ itself is a loan translation (a so-called calque) of the German Lehnwort (Lehn from leihen = ‘lend’ + Wort = ‘word’). Throughout history, English has […]

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