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

parakeet-talkative

Worder to prattle box: what to call the talkative person in your life

By popular demand of our Twitter followers, we wanted to share synonyms for ‘talkative person’ from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Historical Thesaurus charts the semantic development of the English language, and is the first comprehensive historical thesaurus produced for any language. With 800,000 words and meanings, in 235,000 entry categories, […]

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theatre

From early doors to blood-tub: language relating to theatre

The lure of the greasepaint has long attracted people, from Mrs Worthington’s daughter to the latest contestants on reality shows to pick the next star of a West End remake. So on World Theatre Day, await the swish of the curtain, don’t let the super troupers blind you, and get ready to tread the boards […]

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Jane Austen letters

Jane Austen and the art of letter writing

No, the image to the left is not a newly discovered picture of Jane Austen. The image was taken from my copy of The Complete Letter Writer, published in 1840, well after Jane Austen’s death in 1817. But letter writing manuals were popular throughout Jane Austen’s lifetime, and the text of my copy is very […]

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artichokes

Artichokes to zucchinis: a vegetarian alphabet

I’ve been a vegetarian for a little over half my life, and I know certain struggles that vegetarians have to put up with. But one area we don’t struggle with is language. I decided to take a mosey through various words connected with vegetables and vegetarianism, and discovered that the produce aisle at the supermarket […]

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kermit

A Muppet, moi?

With Muppets Most Wanted, the latest in a long line of Muppet movies, releasing in cinemas, what better time to check out the lingo of our puppet pals? The word muppet was actually coined by Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) currently dates the word to 1955 when the […]

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french

Can the Académie française stop the rise of Anglicisms in French?

It’s official: binge drinking is passé in France. No bad thing, you may think; but while you may now be looking forward to a summer of slow afternoons marinating in traditional Parisian café culture, you won’t be able to sip any fair trade wine, download any emails, or get any cash back – not officially, […]

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New York library

More tales from an OED researcher

More notes from the field, courtesy of your New York researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Tell people you work for the OED, and they seem to think that you have some mystical authority over the use (or misuse) of the language. (I especially like the random Twitter questions – adjudicating biographies, passing muster […]

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toilet

How we stopped wearing toilets and started using them

It’s a fascinating fact of linguistic history that some words hardly change their main meaning or develop new meanings, while other words swing Tarzan-like from one semantic treetop to another leaving their past completely behind. One such word is toilet. ‘A kind of Toilet on their Heads’ As you might expect of a word derived […]

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