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An OED editor answers your questions

We recently asked you to provide questions about lexicography and language for a Senior Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – and you certainly had a lot to ask. We’ve picked some of the best questions, and… here are the answers! in a bit of a dilemma. why was 'dilemma' spelled 'dilemna'? is the […]

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Funny food: translating Europe’s unusual food names

Funny food: translating Europe’s unusual food names

As well as its (unfair) reputation for being bland and stodgy, British cuisine is well known for its confusingly and often humorously-named dishes. Tourists are most likely to have heard of pub classics like toad-in-the-hole, a dish of sausages baked in batter, and schoolchildren never tire of tittering at ‘spotted dick’, a suet pudding containing […]

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Crap hat is a derogatory term for the standard beret worn by regular soldiers in the British Army

OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of ‘crap hat’?

Can you help us? OED Appeals is a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English. Part of the process of revising words and phrases for the OED involves searching for evidence of a word’s first recorded use in English, […]

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Reading the Canadian Oxford Dictionary: the letter A

Reading the Canadian Oxford Dictionary: the letter A

In the first of an occasional series, guest blogger Nikki talks us through her ongoing project to read every word in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. A bookmark holds my place in the largest book I have ever attempted to read – a behemoth weighing in at 4.6 pounds. It looks odd with the braid hanging […]

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A large number of birds received their names through the imitation of their cries.

5 surprising origins of common bird names

A large number of birds received their names through the imitation of their cries. The cuckoo is an obvious example of such an onomatopoeic naming, and so are the owl, the cockatiel, and many more. Some bird names, however, have a more intriguing linguistic history. Here we take a look at a few examples. Magpie […]

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dumpster fire

Out of the hot mess and into the dumpster fire?

If there’s one thing that can be said for the times we live in, it’s that it has been an unusually fruitful era when it comes to words to refer to a catastrophe. The first decade of the twenty-first century brought phrases like epic fail and hot mess to prominence, and now here in the […]

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Video: bring or take?

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political catchphrases and nicknames

What’s in a nickname? Lyin’ Ted, L’il Marco, and the art of the political catchphrase

The US Presidential race is taking yet another twist in its long road to the White House this week, as voters in Indiana head to the polls for their primary contest. The race to become a party’s nominee is usually all but settled by this time of year, but in 2016, at least on the […]

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