Category: English in use

John Milton: living at this hour?

John Milton: living at this hour?

The freedom of the press is under threat. At Westminster, politicians are making decisions that could severely curtail the ability of writers and printers to publish what they like, when they like. While parliament has all the power to enact statutory regulation and control of the press, there is at least one man ready to […]

Mars: A lexicographer's perspective

Mars: A lexicographer’s perspective

The planet Mars might initially seem an odd choice for Place of the Year. It has hardly any atmosphere and is more or less geologically inactive, meaning that it has remained essentially unchanged for millions of years. 2012 isn’t much different from one million BC as far as Mars is concerned. However, here on Earth, […]

The Christmas Table

The Christmas table

Described by John Ayto as ‘steaming fragrant black cannonballs’ in his newly published The Diner’s Dictionary, it is not hard to see why Christmas pudding is a luxury afforded only once a year. The rich combination of suet, raisins, currants, spices, eggs, and brandy often leaves diners in a food-induced stupor at the end of […]

Collecting my thoughts on collecting

Collecting my thoughts on collecting

While enjoying a recent browse at one of my favorite antique stores, I stopped to admire a display of thimbles. I have no personal interest in thimbles, but I was for several minutes entranced by them. Arranged on a velvet-lined shelf and locked inside a glass case, they left me a tad breathless. Not quite […]

Rigger-jiggers, feathers, and crabs: the language of rowing

Rigger-jiggers, feathers, and crabs: the language of rowing

Every November Oxford’s Isis river is overrun with novice crews and coxes trying to win their first race, the Christ Church Regatta. Rowing is a huge part of student life here, underlined rather explicitly in this apt quotation which features in the entry for rowing in the Oxford English Dictionary: “Rowing was more than a […]

Words we're thankful for

Words we’re thankful for

Here on the OxfordWords blog we’re constantly awed and impressed by the breadth and depth of the English language. As this is a great week to be appreciative, we’ve asked some fellow language-lovers which word they’re most thankful for. From quark to quotidian, ych a fi to robot, here’s what they said: stillicide Of incredible […]

Cut, print, and that’s a wrap: The origins of filmic language

That’s a wrap! The origins of filmic language

“Film is history.” I’m reminded in the above quote by Martin Scorsese (who, impressively, enters his 49th year as a feature film director in 2012) that film and history are inextricably linked. By its very nature, a film is a historical artifact—a record of some past action that preserves the moment for time to come. Film, […]

The Twihard Years: the language of the Twilight Saga

The Twihard Years: the language of the Twilight Saga

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga has been one of the most successful franchises of the decade. On the back of her four incredibly successful books, there have been four box office hits (the fifth being released in the UK this month), a spin-off book, extensive fan fiction – indeed the mummy-porn sensation, Fifty Shades of Grey […]

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