Quiz: which opposite came first?

Quiz: which opposite came first?

There are plenty of words which come in pairs, as it were, so that knowing the definition of one will almost certainly mean you know the definition of the other. If you’ve understood organized, you’ll also be able to work out what disorganized means; the definition of hygienic leads neatly to the definition of unhygienic, […]

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generations

What are the origins of generation names?

The word seems to crop up every time you read a report on current cultural trends, especially in the US: millennial, referring to a ‘person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000’. But how did we end up with the term in the first place? And what about those other generation terms, like the Beat […]

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Video: what’s the origin of the phrase ‘to have an albatross around one’s neck’?

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'Basket case' has an offensive origin that you might not be aware of.

9 words you didn’t know had offensive origins

Nothing is stranger than discovering that words or phrases we hear every day have offensive or problematic origins. And while there’s no need to cast aspersions on the language of bygone days, it’s helpful to check in on the words we use and what they mean (or used to mean). Some of the words here […]

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bookmobile

OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of the word ‘bookmobile’?

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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Copyediting your own work: 6 simple rules for success

Copyediting your own work: 6 simple rules for success

Whenever we write something – be it a novel, research report, formal letter, or email – there comes a point when we feel that we have included all of the information that we want. It can be very tempting, at this point, to press ‘send’ or submit the document. However, taking the time to copyedit […]

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Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Have you ever noticed that many of our swear words sound very much like German ones and not at all like French ones? From vulgar words for body parts (a German Arsch is easy to identify, but not so the French cul), to scatological and sexual verbs (doubtless you can spot what scheissen and ficken […]

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espresso machine

6 words that everyone pronounces wrong

Sometimes it turns out that knowing how to use a word in a sentence and knowing how to pronounce it are two very different things. Here are several words that lots of people tend to get wrong and have no idea. 1. Espresso Any coffee lover worth their beans has had this argument. Technically, the pronunciation […]

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