Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

searchmonitor

Looking for love… and other popular search terms from 2014 so far

If you’re reading this, you almost certainly use Oxford Dictionaries Online, and if you use Oxford Dictionaries Online, you’ve probably used the search box – and have you ever wondered which words receive the highest number of search requests? It’s a question we’re often asked, and the results are interesting and sometimes amusing. This interactive […]

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leaves

Can a word really be untranslatable?

There’s no such thing as an untranslatable word. There, I’ve said it. Despite all the memes, blogs, and books to the contrary, all language is inherently translatable. However, whether the broader meaning of a text – the jokes, philosophies, and cultural peculiarities of its language – is translatable depends almost entirely on the individual with their nose […]

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railway track

Word histories: conscious uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (better known as an Oscar-winning actress and the Grammy-winning lead singer of Coldplay respectively) recently announced that they would be separating. While the news of any separation is sad, we can’t deny that the report also carried some linguistic interest. In the announcement, on Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop, the pair […]

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wolf

9 words you need to know to win the Game of Thrones

With the return of George R. R. Martin’s epic series to TV screens it’s time to brush up on your knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. For the full story on the language of Game of Thrones read our blog post. Whether you have nefarious designs on the Iron Throne itself, or you’re just too […]

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shapes

Shape up: weird and wonderful words for forms

Sitting in a circle, playing the triangle, being a square – we’re all familiar with common words for shapes (and some of their figurative uses). As you got further in school, you’ll no doubt have learnt more and more shapes – from square and rectangle to rhombus and dodecagon. But words to do with shapes […]

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duckling

What impact did Hans Christian Andersen have on children’s literature?

An extract from the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, available on Oxford Reference. Although Andersen considered himself a novelist and playwright, his novels, dramas, and comedies are almost forgotten today, while his unquestionable fame is based on his fairy tales. He published four collections: Eventyr, fortalte for børn (Fairy Tales, Told for Children, 1835–1842), Nye […]

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April Fool's Day

True or false? An April Fool’s Day OED quiz

April Fool’s Day, also called All Fool’s Day, has been celebrated for centuries, but its origins are unknown. Although there are different customs all over the world to mark the day, the central theme is to play jokes or pranks. We’re not usually in the business of fooling our readers, but that doesn’t mean we […]

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question mark

Elicit or illicit?

1. Such a question isn’t intended to elicit an answer. 2. VHF radio calls from the coastguard and other ships were illiciting no response. 3. He brazenly carried on an elicit affair with Bert’s wife. 4. She admitted to having been in possession of illicit drugs. 5. You can imagine the amount of booing this […]

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