OxfordWords blog en-gb Wed, 03 Sep 2014 11:57:30 +0000 Wed, 03 Sep 2014 11:57:30 +0000 () The many ‘sides’ of Thanksgiving… and the English language http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/thanksgiving-sides-language/ <img width="566" height="377" src="http://cdn.oxwordsblog.wpfuel.co.uk/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/Thanksgiving-sides-566x377.jpg" class="attachment-bigembed" alt="Thanksgiving sides" />We may talk a lot of turkey during the holiday, but US Thanksgiving is really all about the <em>sides</em>. Yes, we pile our plates with mashed potatoes and green beans, but we also feast on the many other great <em>sides</em> the English language has to offer. <h3>From all <em>sides</em></h3> During the holiday, both <em>sides</em> of a family may gather together out in a relative's home in the <em>countryside</em>. The cook may serve up food on a <em>sideboard</em>, with the stuffing cooked on the <em>inside</em> of the bird. At dinner, some may <em>take</em> <em>sides</em> of a political controversy, while others may just stay on the <em>sidelines</em> – of the American football game on TV, that is, where a ref may flag a player who is <em>offside</em>. A distant aunt may pull an unsuspecting nephew <em>aside</em> for some colorful <em>side comments</em>. That's better than her husband, who corners a cousin about the new <em>siding </em>on his house. <em>Besides </em>the family drama, too much food will split <em>sides</em>, as will the convivial laughter. Celebrants can cap the meal with a postprandial snooze: How about <em>sideways </em>on the sofa<em> </em>right<em> </em>by the <em>fireside</em>? The drowsiness is surely just a <em>side effect</em> of all the turkey's tryptophan – not the booze, of course! <h3>Inside <em>side</em></h3> English really dishes up the <em>sides</em>. This may not be surprising, as the word has had a lot of time to develop in the language: the <a href="http://www.oed.com/"><em>Oxford English Dictionary</em> (<em>OED</em>)</a> dates <em>side</em> back to Old English, when, much as now, it named the sides of the body. <em>Side</em> has many cognates in the Germanic languages, but its ultimate origins are unclear. Proposing a Proto-Germanic root, philologist Walter Skeat has suggested an earlier, literal meaning of ‘that which is extended’. This is possibly connected to another early <em>side </em>in Old English, this one meaning ‘long’ and ‘spacious’. Let's have a look at – er, taste of – some other particularly interesting <em>side</em> words in English. <h3><em>Side</em> notes</h3> If we have a hard time paying attention, we might easily get <em>sidetracked</em>. This term is derived from the 19th-century <em>side-tracks</em> of railroads. If we want to avoid a touchy topic, we might <em>sidestep</em> it in a conversation, a word first recorded in military marches near the <em>backside</em>, shall we say, of the 1700s. In such a conversation, we might digress with many <em>sidebars, </em>which US journalists were using by the late 1940s to refer to articles secondary to the feature story in a newspaper; the figurative sense was in place by the early 1950s. A <em>sideshow</em> may have been – no hoax – a coinage of the great showman P.T. Barnum. He refers to it as a ‘temporary enterprise’ alongside his main attraction, as the <em>OED</em> first records the word in 1855. A<em> sidekick</em> is also first found in American English. It's back-formed from <em>side-kicker</em>, documented at least by the start of the 1900s for a ‘close but lesser pal’. The <em>kick </em>may originally have meant ‘to walk or wander’, yielding <em>to kick around</em> or <em>kick about</em>. Another stateside word is <em>sideburns</em>. This facial hair is named after <a href="http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/01/why-do-we-call-whiskers-side-burns/">Ambrose Burnside</a>, an American Civil War general noted for the particular way he groomed his whiskers. Here, the <em>OED</em> quotes the <em>Cincinnati Enquirer</em> in 1875: ‘His whisker was of the Burnside type, consisting of mustache and ‘muttonchop’, the chin being perfectly clean’. Maybe you recall that records had A-sides and B-sides? Another term for the B-side was the<em> flip side</em>, dated to the late 1940s.  The B-side typically featured the lesser track(s) of a recording, although <em>on the</em> <em>flip side</em> lives on as a positive consideration of some matter. Like <em>flip side</em>, we can also speak of the <em>upside</em> or <em>downside</em> of some event. While <em>upside</em> and <em>downside</em> have long been in the language, these substantive usages for ‘advantage’ and ‘disadvantage’, respectively, trace back to the early 20<sup>th</sup> century, when they were used to describe the movement of share prices in the stock market. <em>Upside down</em> is far older, at least in sense. The <em>OED</em> dates it back to the 1300s, but the phrase took a different form early on: <em>up so down.</em> Speakers shaped the word into <em>upset down </em>and <em>upside down</em>, which stuck, since the usage of <em>so</em> was unusual, the <em>OED </em>explains. <em>Sidle,</em> ‘to edge sideways’, also features some curious linguistic changes at work. The verb is actually a back-formation of <em>sideling</em>, which was an adverb meaning ‘sideways’ but whose <em>-ing</em> sounds like the progressive tense or a present participle in English. In the word <em>sideling</em>, however, this <em>-ing</em> is actually part of <em>-ling</em>, an old adverbial suffix in the language. Not to be left out, <em>-ling</em> got confused with <em>-long</em>, another adverbial suffix seen in <em>sidelong</em>. Sports fans, especially of American football, may well be familiar with <em>blindsided</em>. As the <em>OED notes, </em>the term, deriving from <em>blind side</em>, actually dates back to the very early 1600s, referring to the ‘weak side of a person or thing’. <em>Bedside manner</em> may also strike some as a relatively new phenomenon, but it is in fact recorded by the mid-1800s. Finally, two words that are surprisingly younger than many may suppose are <em>insider</em> and <em>outsider</em>. <em>Insider</em> is documented by 1848 (and in the context of the stock exchanges), which makes it roughly contemporary to <em>sunny side</em>. In a recent observation made by lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, <em>outsider</em>, <a href="https://twitter.com/PeterSokolowski/status/664889831772721152">has been spiking</a> in the American language due to the political <em>outsider</em> status some Republican Party presidential candidates are touting. Sokolowski also noted it appears<em> </em>in<em> </em>1800 in a letter by Jane Austen (the <em>OED</em> attests this, too), referring to some outsiders to a card game. But like gravy, many like to keep their politics <em>on the side</em> on Thanksgiving. 4:05 pm http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/?p=35275 John Kelly Word origins How to say ‘thank you’ in 28 languages http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/thank-you-in-other-languages/ <img width="566" height="377" src="http://cdn.oxwordsblog.wpfuel.co.uk/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/thank-you-566x377.jpg" class="attachment-bigembed" alt="thank you" />Thanksgiving may often be seen as a thoroughly American affair, but variations of this celebration exist in other parts of the world as well. So, to honour the international character of the harvest festival, why not take out a few minutes in between stuffing your face with turkey and sweet potatoes to learn how to say <em>thank you</em> in other languages? <a href="http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/thank-you-translations-world-map.png"><img class="aligncenter wp-image-35370" src="http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/thank-you-translations-world-map.png" alt="thank you translations world map" width="600" height="361" /></a> <em><span style="font-size: small;">(Click image to enlarge)</span></em> Is your language not represented in our map? Let us know how you say <em>thanks</em> in the comments! 1:18 pm http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/?p=35335 Oxford Dictionaries Other languages Which ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ character are you? http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/which-alice-in-wonderland-character-are-you/ <img width="566" height="384" src="http://cdn.oxwordsblog.wpfuel.co.uk/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/Tea-party-in-colour-566x384.jpg" class="attachment-bigembed" alt="Which Alice in Wonderland character am I?" />Are you the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, or one Lewis Carroll's other surreal creations? Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of <em>Alice's Adventures in Wonderland</em> by taking our quiz and finding out which character you are most like. <div class="quizz-container" data-width="100%" data-height="auto" data-quiz="118653"></div> <script src="//dcc4iyjchzom0.cloudfront.net/widget/loader.js" async=""></script> We hope you weren't disappointed with the result! Whether or not you got the character you wanted, why not find out more about Lewis Carroll's <a href="http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/07/mimsy-chortle-and-galumph-alice-in-wonderland-and-the-portmanteau/">contributions to the English language</a>? 11:40 am http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/?p=35315 Oxford Dictionaries Competitions and quizzes ‘Advise’ and ‘advice’: what’s the difference? http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/advise-advice-difference/ <img width="566" height="368" src="http://cdn.oxwordsblog.wpfuel.co.uk/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/Advise-and-advice-566x368.png" class="attachment-bigembed" alt="Advise and advice" />What's the difference between <em>advise</em> and <em>advice</em>? Watch our video to find out. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/OxfordDictionaries" target="_blank"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-31726" src="http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/YouTube-Banner.png" alt="YouTube Banner" width="600" height="80" /></a> 4:51 pm http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/?p=34965 Oxford Dictionaries English in use And the Word of the Year 1915 is… flapper http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/flapper-word-of-the-year-1915/ <img width="566" height="370" src="http://cdn.oxwordsblog.wpfuel.co.uk/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/Louise-Brooks-flapper-566x370.jpg" class="attachment-bigembed" alt="Louise Brooks was an American actress and dancer widely known as a &#039;flapper&#039;." />True, as best we can tell, there was no actual selection of a Word of the Year a century ago. The modern phenomenon of choosing a Word of the Year began in 1990 with the American Dialect Society. The idea came from <em>Time</em> magazine’s choosing a Person of the Year each year, not by some formula but simply by the judgment that this person (or word) was particularly significant during the past year. Significant, representative of the year’s preoccupations and attitudes – those are the loose criteria members of the Dialect Society follow in casting their votes. But what about the years before 1990? Fellow lexicographer David Barnhart and I ventured to fill the large gap of missing Words of the Year, with the benefit of hindsight giving us a good perspective on what was significant in the long run. In 1997 Houghton Mifflin published our book of backdates, <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/America-So-Many-Words-Shaped/dp/0618002707" target="_blank">America in So Many Words</a></em>, one word for practically every year going all the way back to the first English-speaking settlement in Jamestown. And for 1915 our Word of the Year was <em>flapper.</em> The word wasn’t new, as the <em>Oxford English Dictionary </em>(<em>OED</em>) blushingly makes clear. The <em>OED</em> cites slang dictionaries in the late nineteenth century which defined <em>flapper</em> as ‘a very young prostitute‘or ‘a very immoral girl in her early “teens”’. But it could also mean simply a girl, especially one with hair in a pigtail (and thus hair that would flap; that’s one possible origin of the term. In the 1920s, her hair was short). An 1888 dialect glossary said <em>flapper</em> was ‘applied in joke to a girl of the bread-and-butter age’. These meanings were coming together in 1915 as a name for a modern, smart, fashionable young woman, so avant in the avant garde that she flirted with danger, for herself and others. We chose 1915 partly because of a comment by none other than H.L. Mencken: ‘The Flapper of 1915 has forgotten how to simper; she seldom blushes; and it is impossible to shock her’. <em>Flapper</em> is also one of the key words in my new book, <em><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/from-skedaddle-to-selfie-9780199927128" target="_blank">From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations</a>.</em> It’s a word belonging to what Gertrude Stein called the Lost Generation, whose members were born between 1881 and 1900. True, there were even more flappers in the earlier members of next generation, the G.I. generation (born 1901-1924), but the Lost Generation set the pattern. Prohibition gave flappers new opportunity for ostentation. There was no minimum age for patronizing a speakeasy, and flappers of all ages were welcome. <em>Skedaddle to Selfie</em> makes room for a 1922 column by Chicago newspaperman Ben Hecht describing in detail a day in the company of a fictitious flapper in her late teens. The columnist thinks to himself that she is one of ‘the wise brazen little virgins who shimmy and toddle, but never pay the fiddler. She’s it. Selling her ankles for a glass of pop and her eyes for a fox trot. Unhuman little piece. A cross between a macaw and a marionette’. The women’s vote, prohibition, speakeasies, and the Roaring Twenties made the flapper possible. With all but the women's vote gone in the 1930s, the flapper was no more. Her combination of naughty and nice remains unique in American history. Other candidates for 1915 WOTY might have been <em>hip</em> and <em>hep</em> - both with the meaning of ‘in the know’ and the basis for later <a href="http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/06/history-of-hip/">hippie and hipster</a>. Or <em>pep</em>, that energetic word. All three make their appearance in <em>From Skedaddle to Selfie</em>, but they weren’t named as Word of the Year in <em>America in So Many Words</em>. 7:52 pm http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/?p=35320 Allan Metcalf English in use Which Roald Dahl character are you? http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/roald-dahl-character-quiz/ <img width="566" height="412" src="http://cdn.oxwordsblog.wpfuel.co.uk/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/james-and-the-giant-peach-e1448051706241-566x412.jpg" class="attachment-bigembed" alt="An image from Roald Dahl&#039;s James and the Giant Peach" />The works of Roald Dahl abound with indelibly-drawn characters, from the magnanimously awful Trunchbull to the suddenly youthful Grandpa Joe. In the realm of children's literature, his books are notable for their treatment of children as more like small adults who are, it should be noted, often more capable than their actual adult counterparts. Take a trip back to those fond times spent squirreled away in the odd worlds that Dahl created and learn which Roald Dahl character you are! [qzzr quiz="130238" width="100%" height="auto" redirect="true" offset="0"] 3:59 pm http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/?p=35291 Oxford Dictionaries Competitions and quizzes