Welsh rabbit

The origin of Welsh rabbit

Now often known as Welsh rarebit, this dish of toasted cheese was originally known as Welsh rabbit… but why? There is no evidence that the Welsh actually originated Welsh rabbit, although they have always had a reputation for being passionately fond of it (a fourteenth-century text tells the tale that the Welsh people in heaven were being troublesome, […]

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Chocolate-covered quotations

Chocolate-covered quotations

It may well be that every day is chocolate day for you – it certainly is for me – but July 7 is more officially Chocolate Day, and gives us an excuse to (a) wolf down several bars for breakfast and (b) have a look at some quotations connected with chocolate. Curiously enough, they mostly […]

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Declaration of Independence

Rhetorical fireworks for the Fourth of July

Ever since 4 July 1777 when citizens of Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of American independence with a fireworks display, the “rockets’ red glare” has lent a military tinge to this national holiday. But the explosive aspect of the patriots’ resistance was the incendiary propaganda that they spread across the thirteen colonies. A rhetorical Declaration […]

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Tour de France

Le Tour de France: the vocab of le vélo

Spectators are expected to line the streets in their millions over the next few days as men in Lycra descend on Yorkshire. No, this is not a terrifying new reboot of Last of the Summer Wine, but the Grand Départ of the largest annual sporting event in the world – the Tour de France. Over […]

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Oxford Dictionaries Community

Introducing the Oxford Dictionaries Community

What is the Community? Have you ever wondered how to use the Oxford comma, or what the French equivalent of Bob’s your uncle is? Do you want to discuss selfie, semi-colons, and subclauses? Are there, in fact, questions about language you’ve always wanted to ask, and linguistic topics you’ve been longing to discuss? As you […]

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William_Hogarth_007

Eighteenth-century soldiers’ slang: “Hot Stuff” and the British Army

Britain’s soldiers were singing about hot stuff more than 200 years before Donna Summer released her hit song of the same name in 1979. The true origins of martial ballads are often difficult to ascertain, but a song entitled ‘Hot Stuff’ can be found in print by 1774. The 5 May edition of Rivington’s New York Gazetteer […]

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Mountain Bluebird

Twitter and the Oxford English Dictionary

Although Twitter (maximum 140 characters) and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (over 350 million characters) may seem like strange bedfellows, the former has recently become an integral part of the latter: for the first time, the OED has included individual Twitter posts as part of its quotation evidence. Twitter as historical evidence In recent OED […]

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SOS

The origins of SOS and Mayday

S.O.S became the worldwide standard distress signal (particularly in maritime use) on 1 July 1908, having first been adopted by the German government three years earlier. It has since entered the awareness of those who are unlikely ever to summon help at sea – appearing in contexts as varied as the title of songs by […]

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