murray children

Did you know that James Murray… had eleven children, all of whom helped in the compilation of the OED?

2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life […]

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‘Compliment’ or ‘complement’: what’s the difference?

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play to the gallery

11 popular expressions explained

Why do we bury the hatchet? The phrase, meaning to end an argument or conflict, refers back to a Native American custom in the seventeenth century whereby a hatchet or tomahawk would be buried in the ground to signal the laying down of arms and the declaration of peace between warring groups. Why do we […]

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charlie brown peanuts

Our favourite words from Peanuts

Today sees the launch of the new Peanuts Movie, based on the popular comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Whether you like the strip or not, its popularity, and its ability to cross generational and language gaps cannot be questioned. At its peak, Peanuts was published in over 2,600 newspapers, in 21 languages, and boasted […]

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Bonfire Night words

Bonfire Night: which word did you burn?

Which words do you really hate? It’s Bonfire Night in the United Kingdom on 5 November. This celebration’s origins may seem curious to the rest of the world – why do we celebrate the anniversary of an attempted regicide? – but it’s a good excuse for fireworks and bonfires. Traditionally an effigy of Guy Fawkes […]

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National Novel Writing Month fail

8 ways to fail at NaNoWriMo

As failed novelists, thus far at least, we thought we’d be able to give you some counter advice – what not to do if you want to get a novel under your belt during November. 1) Discover a television show you really have to binge watch ‘TV is a great way to learn about crafting […]

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National Novel Writing Month

Words of encouragement, unsolicited advice, and a few reservations about starting a novel for NaNoWriMo

For those participating in NaNoWriMo, I salute you. By all means, please brag about your novel to your friends. Be proud of it. Appreciate the encouragement you receive. Ignore any eye rolls. And, most importantly, use this month as an opportunity not to simply write as many words as you can, but to become a […]

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Four men playing poker.

A Five-star, Four-flusher of a Word for BSers

I’ve been drowning in bullshit, but in a good way. In my new book Bullshit: A Lexicon, I discuss common (malarkey, mumbo jumbo) and rare terms (flubdub, meadow mayonnaise) for BS and BSers. When people hear I’ve been spending my time on such a mature, humanitarian endeavor, they often ask what’s my favorite BS word. […]

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