8 gaming words

8 words every gamer needs to know

You may play a round or two of Tetris on your phone to fend off boredom from time to time (in fact, I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t given this game a go). You might even be pretty good at it. But it seems safe to say that you probably won’t […]

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10 tricky pronunciations

10 tricky pronunciations

Recently we learned – if we were in any doubt – that Nike want their name pronounced Nikey (or, to put it in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), ˈnʌɪki). Those of us familiar with our Greek deities already knew that the company’s namesake and goddess of victory pronounced her name that way, but opinion differed […]

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Book quiz

Book quiz: can you spot titles borrowed from other books?

The Fault in Our Stars, based on the 2012 novel by John Green, is released in cinemas this month. The title is adapted from a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In Act 1, Scene 2, Cassius says: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. Of course, […]

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The language of Thomas Hardy

The language of Thomas Hardy

Writing about Hardy’s poetic language, Edmund Blunden, one of his most perceptive critics, noted that it is ‘sometimes a peculiar compound of the high-flown and the dull. If he means “I asked” he is liable to say “I queried” or rather “Queried I”; he is liable to “opine” instead of think. … He goes his road […]

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Advise or advice

Advise or advice?

What’s the difference between advise and advice? Do you know? Does it matter? Well, yes, it does, because apart from the obvious fact that one has the ending -ise and the other -ice, there’s a highly significant distinction: one’s a verb and one’s a noun. These grammatical and spelling differences involve a related semantic one […]

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Maya Angelou quote

Maya Angelou’s legacy encompasses poetry, essays, and autobiographical writing. With a distinctive voice and a love of language, it is unsurprising that she is currently quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as supporting evidence for 42 entries. These range from make-believe to maternal, poetess to privacy. She also appears several times in Oxford Essential Quotations, including the quotation above.

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How Bill Murray changed the English language

Bill Murray in the OED

When the Ghostbusters film was released in the mid-1980s it gave us many things: an earworm of a theme tune, an ideal group fancy dress costume, and a chance to appreciate Bill Murray’s wonderfully deadpan delivery of some classic lines. But who would have thought that one of these lines would have such an impact […]

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Children's WOTY

Children’s Word of the Year 2014

Our Children’s Dictionaries department has today announced the Children’s Word of the Year for 2014: ‘minion’. The word was chosen after analysis of the entries to the 2014 BBC Radio 2 500 WORDS competition, in which children aged 13 and under were invited to compose an original work of fiction, using no more than 500 […]

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