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

Russian alphabet

‘You speak Russian?!’

If you want to impress your friends, family, colleagues, and almost every English speaker you’ll ever meet, learn Russian. Russian – so I’m told – is hard. It is the language of spies, code-breakers, and Communists, and the preserve of Oxbridge intellectuals. Winston Churchill famously called Russia ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an […]

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A slice of apple’s linguistic history

apple

October is National Apple Month. To celebrate, we’ve got an extract from The Diner’s Dictionary looking at the linguistic life of this humble fruit. The apple was probably the earliest of all fruits to be cultivated by human beings. Its wild ancestor was a sharp, mouth-puckering little thing, like today’s crab apple, and this abel-, […]

The language of Prohibition-era gangsters: knowing your goons from your gumshoes

model t

Although this blog has already covered a number of the interesting words and phrases associated with the speakeasies of 1920’s and early 1930’s America, the period still has a number of gems. As today marks the anniversary of the conviction of notorious Chicago-based gangster Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, what better reason to revisit some of the […]

From Boris Johnson to Oscar Wilde: who is the wittiest of them all?

Dictionary of Humorous Quotations

Today marks the publication of the fifth edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, now under the editorship of broadcaster and former MP Gyles Brandreth. But who is the wittiest of them all? To celebrate this new edition of the Dictionary, Brandreth here reveals the people most quoted in its pages, and also highlights […]

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books

Book quiz: can you recognize these classic last lines?

Our previous book quiz, which tested your knowledge of first lines in novels, yielded some very high scores. But how well do you know last lines? Though a book’s opening lines may determine whether or not you take the book home at all, it’s as likely to be the last lines that stick in your […]

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What would be your Word of the Year for 2013?

WOTY

This time of year is very exciting for those of us working in Oxford Dictionaries as we are starting to think about what our Word of the Year will be for 2013. We’re analysing our databases, interrogating colleagues, and generally looking back over the past year to make a list of the words and expressions […]

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Bromance

The rise of the portmanbro

How an abbreviation of brother became a word-forming dynamo For most of its existence in English, the word bro led a quiet and unassuming life. For centuries, it was merely a graphic abbreviation of brother (properly bro.), occasionally put to colloquial use, like sis, to refer to a person’s male sibling. It wasn’t until the […]

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Beltway buzzwords – inside the jargon on Capitol Hill… and beyond (part 2)

Washington DC map

Following on from yesterday’s blog post looking at the language used to describe the people of Washington D.C, from staffers to POTUS, Lorna Shaddick continues to explore the jargon of the Hill with lame ducks, slug lines, and Beltway Bandits. Filibuster: from pirates to politics With so many people on the Hill involved in the […]

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