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

Quiz: match the film with the book

Quiz: match the film with the book

When filmmakers turn to the world of literature for inspiration, often they decide that the author made the best choice for title, and leave well alone. It doesn’t take an expert to spot that Joe Wright’s film Pride and Prejudice (2005) is an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen. Even with the […]

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tightrope

Tightrope walking and ambulances: what do they share in common?

In the early hours of 7 August 1974, after six years of planning and months of subterfuge, Philippe Petit stepped out onto a high wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. A crowd of thousands gathered to watch the breathtaking 45 minute display, as Petit walked, danced, and even […]

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untranslatable

Translatable vs untranslatable

In a guest blog post, and following on from her article about ‘untranslatable’ Russian words, Caroline James questions the idea that some words are simply untranslatable. For most language learners and lovers, translation is a hot topic. Should I translate new vocabulary into my first language? How can I say x in Japanese? Is this […]

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record player

James Brown in the OED

With the recent release of the James Brown biopic Get On Up, directed by Tate Taylor and starring Chadwick Boseman, I thought it might be worth reflecting on the legacy of Mr Dynamite. It goes without saying that James Brown contributed in enduring ways to the history of pop music; there’s good reason for his […]

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origin of banana

What is the origin of ‘banana’?

Banana appears to be a tropical African word, but its lexical origins represent only a single stage in the fruit’s worldwide wanderings before it reached British shores. Asian origins? It probably first grew in Southeast Asia, and did not make a big impact elsewhere until the early Islamic period when it was brought from India […]

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90s language

Achy-breaky words: the language of the nineties

Though they’re well over a decade past, the nineties occupy an unusual place in the cultural zeitgeist. A whole new decade has come and gone since, and yet popular culture still has yet to decide what precisely the nineties were “about”. For better or for worse, many of the decades preceding the nineties have their […]

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on the radar

On the radar: July 2014

Oxford’s lexicography team monitors many new English words which are still too new or rare to be included in our dictionaries. Here is a roundup of a few neologisms that have caught our eyes recently. oxt Lexicographers typically discover new words when we encounter them “in the wild”, used unselfconsciously by people who are confident […]

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bread idioms

The greatest thing since bread idioms

When it comes to offering both nutritional and linguistic value, no food is more nourishing than good ol’, plain ol’ bread. For centuries, bread has been a symbol of the ultimate sustenance – and bread idioms and proverbs further emphasize its dual status as a provider of life and a measure of how well that […]

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