telephone

Did you know that James Murray… was called ‘the grandfather of the telephone’?

2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life […]

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Handwriting

How well do you know the language of handwriting?

Sponsored by the Writing Instruments Manufacturers Association and celebrated each year on January 23rd, National Handwriting Day (US) reminds us of the vast and varied tools, systems, industries, arts, and styles that have been fashioned, practiced, and, more often than not nowadays, ditched for more computational alternatives over the course of human history. Handwriting is […]

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cat meme large

The language of memes – and how to create your own

English is a truly global language with hundreds of regional variations worldwide, including over 50 dialects of British English alone. It is also the primary language of the internet, and the virtual world has spawned its own varieties of English too. These online dialects, often spread by memes, have been around long enough now for […]

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pencil

Lord Byron in the OED

Lord Byron, one of Britain’s greatest poets, was born on this day in 1788, so we thought this might be a good opportunity to trace his influence on the English language. We have consulted the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and discovered more about Byron’s innovative use of language. While all the words listed below existed […]

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Video: what is the Oxford comma?

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Ancient Greece

Why it’s all Greek to you and that shouldn’t be a problem

“Give me a word, any word and I’ll show you how the root of that word is Greek. Ok? How about arachnophobia? Αράχνη, that comes from the Greek word for spider, and φοβία is a phobia, it means fear. So fear of spiders. There you go!” “OK Mr Portokalos. How about the word kimono?” “Hmm, […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word vape?

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country

Dolly Parton: a musical career expressed through language statistics

Here at Oxford Dictionaries we often refer to the Oxford English Corpus in our work. By consulting statistical analysis of a vast database of billions of words of English captured from the wild, our lexicographer colleagues can spot new words and usage patterns that they might not otherwise have encountered. It is a fascinating resource […]

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