OED WW1 timeline

100 words that define the First World War

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) World War I timeline shows some of the ways in which the events of the First World War left their mark on the English language. For example, the wet and muddy conditions of the first winter of trench warfare were evoked in the term Flanders mud (November 1914), while trench boots and […]

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letters

Limerick competition: the winners

When we asked for people to craft limericks about their favourite words, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would the OxfordWords readers rise to the occasion? Well, they did – and they did so magnificently. The most popular ‘favourite word’ was winner (we see what you were trying to do there…) and they ranged from ossify and snide to […]

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A book by any other name

A book by any other name

Following on from our post about the etymology of the word book, we’ve delved into the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to find different words for book and various types of book through time… they’re in the word cloud above, and the list below.  anagraph – a record or register of events. anagraphy – an anagraph. […]

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Beech

When is a book a tree?

The obvious answer to ‘when is a book a tree?’ is ‘before it’s been made into a book’ – it doesn’t take a scientist to know that (most) paper comes from trees – but things get more complex when we turn our attention to etymology. The word book itself has changed very little over the […]

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8 gaming words

8 words every gamer needs to know

You may play a round or two of Tetris on your phone to fend off boredom from time to time (in fact, I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t given this game a go). You might even be pretty good at it. But it seems safe to say that you probably won’t […]

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10 tricky pronunciations

10 tricky pronunciations

Recently we learned – if we were in any doubt – that Nike want their name pronounced Nikey (or, to put it in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), ˈnʌɪki). Those of us familiar with our Greek deities already knew that the company’s namesake and goddess of victory pronounced her name that way, but opinion differed […]

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Fault in Our Stars

Book quiz: can you spot titles borrowed from other books?

The Fault in Our Stars, based on the 2012 novel by John Green, is released in cinemas this month. The title is adapted from a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In Act 1, Scene 2, Cassius says: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. Of course, […]

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The language of Thomas Hardy

The language of Thomas Hardy

Writing about Hardy’s poetic language, Edmund Blunden, one of his most perceptive critics, noted that it is ‘sometimes a peculiar compound of the high-flown and the dull. If he means “I asked” he is liable to say “I queried” or rather “Queried I”; he is liable to “opine” instead of think. … He goes his road […]

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