There are plenty of supernatural elements in Shakespeare's plays

Quiz: Shakespeare and the supernatural

Shakespeare might have had a fondness for kings and unlikely coincidences featuring twins, but he also wasn’t averse to a ghost every now and then. There are plenty of supernatural elements in his plays, from revenge hauntings to magic spells and the occasional statue that comes to life. We’ve taken some of Shakespeare’s ghostliest lines […]

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How many words begin with ‘x’?

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Nothing is really known about the ultimate origin of the word elephant.

13 animal names and their meanings

Let’s take a look behind the meanings of some common animal names… Ostrich The bird’s name comes from a combination of the classical Latin avis, ‘bird’, and post-classical Latin struthio, strucio. The latter is derived from ancient Greek στρουθός (strouthos), which also means ‘sparrow’. The Greeks sometimes called the Ostrich στρουθοκάμηλος (strouthokamelos), literally ‘sparrow-camel’. Chameleon […]

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Today’s appeals are looking specifically at a couple of words that are often used in Philippine English: kilig and teleserye.

OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of ‘kilig’ and ‘teleserye’?

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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Does the BBC dictate proper pronunciation?

BBC English: does it dictate proper pronunciation?

Language use and notions of correctness have always been central matters for large sections of British society – especially those concerned with class, status, and education. Throughout its history, the BBC played a central role in disseminating what is considered ‘proper’ pronunciation. In its early days, the BBC was even meant to not only entertain […]

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Oxford Dictionaries for Children have chosen 'refugee' as the 2016 Children's Word of the Year.

Children’s Word of the Year 2016: refugee

Our Children’s Dictionaries department have announced the Children’s Word of the Year for 2016: refugee. The word was chosen after analysing the entries to the 2016 BBC Radio 2 500 WORDS competition, in which young people age 5-13 were invited to compose an original work of fiction on any subject or theme, using no more than 500 words. This […]

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The language of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Don’t Panic: the language of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally written as a radio script, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978 in 6 episodes described as fits – a term used for a section of a poem that goes back to Old English. The Hitchhiker’s Guide appeared in book form in 1979; since then it has […]

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Phubbing refers to the practice of ignoring one's companion or companions in order to pay attention to one's phone or other mobile device.

How ‘phub’ made me eat my words

In the 2004 film Mean Girls, high school queen bee Regina George famously chastises one of her minions for using a slang term she has invented (fetch, meaning ‘cool’): Gretchen: That is so fetch! Regina: Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen! One of the reasons this scene resonates is […]

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