Category: English in use

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

Other than as an ironic idiom for ‘no more than’ (e.g., sex with Edgar lasts all of twenty seconds), does all of have any legit uses? The answer is a qualified, complicated, and personally embarrassed yes. Here’s the story. An irksome habit of many student writers is to just automatically stick an of between all […]

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What’s so super about Super PACs?

What's so super about Super PACs?

Back in January we published a short glossary of the jargon of the presidential primaries. Now that the campaign has begun in earnest, here is our brief guide to some of the most perplexing vocabulary of this year’s general election. Nominating conventions It may seem like the 2012 US presidential election has stretched on for […]

Just Plutonic? Roman gods and their relationship to the days of the week

Just Plutonic? Roman gods and their relationship to the days of the week

When I was a kid. . . Yeah, you know where I’m going with this one. Pluto was a planet. Discovered in 1930, Pluto enjoyed renown as the 9th planet in our solar system for 76 years, until in 2006 the International Astronomical Union declared it to be a dwarf planet. Poor Pluto: the last […]

Only a Northern Song

Strawberry Fields Forever: the legacy of The Beatles

As a die-hard Beatles fan, I was delighted to learn that the Beatles’ lyrics are very popular with teachers of English as a foreign language. Apparently, the songs are notable for containing high percentages of the commonest English words, and are therefore very useful for learners. But in writing this article, I’m more interested in what […]

Dorothy Parker, wordsmith

Dorothy Parker, wordsmith

The wisecracking poet Dorothy Rothschild Parker was the prototypical New Yorker who nonetheless was born in New Jersey, on August 22, 1893. That said, her birthplace was a matter of circumstance—her family was escaping the city heat on the Jersey Shore—and she grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She lived most of […]

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

From rockabilly 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 […]

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