Category: English in use

What do you call the man in the red suit?

What do you call the man in the red suit?

  Last year on the OxfordWords blog, we posted a picture of a rather rotund gentleman, with a white beard and moustache, and some fetching white faux-fur trimmings on his red suit and hat. We asked ‘Who is this?’ and gave you a choice of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Santa, Saint Nick, Santy, Kris Kringle, […]

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Silver houses and marmalade castles: interpreting The Nutcracker

In 1892 the curtains rose at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg for the premiere of a new ballet. With a score by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, the ballet was set to be a hit. After all, the pair had produced The Sleeping Beauty, which was hugely successful, just two years earlier. But […]

Christmas cookies!

From jumbles to gingersnaps: the origins of cookie names

It may be difficult to do so whilst piling them into one’s maw, but did you ever think about how Christmas cookies came to possess such deliciously eclectic names? Jumbles. Thumbprints. Snickerdoodles. Gingersnaps. Rugelach. Sand tarts. Macaroons. Kiffles. And these are only a few of the hundreds of types treasured in American households during the […]

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Jewish holiday traditions: Chanukah

My boyfriend insists that his basketball team can perform miracles. Yes, yes I know what you’re thinking (and, quite frankly, what I’m thinking, too) that when it comes to men and sports, you should just nod and agree to anything said. Over the years I have been in Israel however, I have come to realize […]

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mistletoe

Holiday traditions: what’s so magical about mistletoe?

Mistletoe is special. Every culture that comes across the plant mythologizes it and no wonder. To see mistletoe in England at this time of year, a ball of perfect green life suspended in barren branches, it seems a mysterious, even an other-worldly presence: healthy in the teeth of winter, seemingly without roots or any contact […]

Dewey unbound

Dewey unbound

Melvil Dewey, born to thrifty, parsimonious parents in upstate New York on December 8, 1851, could almost be said to have been destined to devise the classification system used by 200,000 libraries around the world today. He was a man devoted to efficiency, and was an enemy of waste. At sixteen, having taught himself bookkeeping, […]

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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, […]

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