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

Jack and the Flagpole: what do you call the British national flag?

Bunting

Travelling around Britain, as I’ve been doing this week, I have been struck, as anyone would be, by the profusion of national flags. Not only are they to be found draped on cars and pinned in bedroom windows this year, the British flag is also being displayed on civic flagpoles, high-street lamp-posts, and pub-signs, and […]

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

Other than as an ironic idiom for ‘no more than’ (e.g., sex with Edgar lasts all of twenty seconds), does all of have any legit uses? The answer is a qualified, complicated, and personally embarrassed yes. Here’s the story. An irksome habit of many student writers is to just automatically stick an of between all […]

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What’s so super about Super PACs?

What's so super about Super PACs?

Back in January we published a short glossary of the jargon of the presidential primaries. Now that the campaign has begun in earnest, here is our brief guide to some of the most perplexing vocabulary of this year’s general election. Nominating conventions It may seem like the 2012 US presidential election has stretched on for […]

Just Plutonic? Roman gods and their relationship to the days of the week

Just Plutonic? Roman gods and their relationship to the days of the week

When I was a kid. . . Yeah, you know where I’m going with this one. Pluto was a planet. Discovered in 1930, Pluto enjoyed renown as the 9th planet in our solar system for 76 years, until in 2006 the International Astronomical Union declared it to be a dwarf planet. Poor Pluto: the last […]

Cavorting about

Cavorting about

As headlines today scream ‘Prince Harry cavorts naked in Vegas party photos’, we asked chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary John Simpson for an insight into the disputed origins of the word ‘cavort’. “This is something that has had lexicographers scratching their heads over the years. Not why people cavort about, but where the […]

Hella ridic new words to make you lolz: ODO August 2012 update

Hella ridic new words to make you lolz: ODO August 2012 update

If vocabulary is your guilty pleasure, join us in a group hug to celebrate the selection of new words to Oxford Dictionaries Online. Genius! Let’s set the scene. Your OH has left his brahs and decided it’s date night, and although he isn’t exactly ripped he’s made an effort with his new soul patch (lolz!) […]

Strawberry Fields Forever: the legacy of The Beatles

Only a Northern Song

As a die-hard Beatles fan, I was delighted to learn that the Beatles’ lyrics are very popular with teachers of English as a foreign language. Apparently, the songs are notable for containing high percentages of the commonest English words, and are therefore very useful for learners. But in writing this article, I’m more interested in what […]

Dorothy Parker, wordsmith

Dorothy Parker, wordsmith

The wisecracking poet Dorothy Rothschild Parker was the prototypical New Yorker who nonetheless was born in New Jersey, on August 22, 1893. That said, her birthplace was a matter of circumstance—her family was escaping the city heat on the Jersey Shore—and she grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She lived most of […]

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