Facebook: a language

Facebook: a language

Today is Mark Zuckerberg’s 29th birthday – yes, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook is still under thirty. Facebook turned nine this February, which is surprisingly young given its influence upon the English language. It is my part-time addiction to Facebook, and not, I hasten to add, my degree in English, that has qualified me […]

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A limerick competition for Mother’s Day

A limerick competition for Mother’s Day: win an iPod Touch

The appreciation for limericks, such as Edward Lear’s nonsense verses, is well-documented here on the OxfordWords blog. As is an appreciation for mothers.  Since Mother’s Day and Limerick Day coincide this year in the US, what better way to celebrate both than with a mom-themed limerick competition? (The competition is, of course, open worldwide.) How […]

Celebrating Language; the Magic of Angela Carter

Celebrating language: the magic of Angela Carter

When Angela Carter was accused of overwriting, she cheerfully agreed that she pounced on opportunities to do so: ‘Embrace them? I would say that I half-suffocate them with the enthusiasm with which I wrap my arms and legs around them.’ The critic, Helen Stoddart, said she had ‘one of the most distinctive and daring voices […]

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H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft and the Northern Gothic Tongue

There is a very specific language of Gothic and horror literature that has its roots buried deep in the history of English: doom has been around since Old English; dread carries over from Middle English; eerie, that sense of vague superstitious uneasiness, enters Middle English through Scottish. The adjectives are harsh and guttural: moons are […]

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Paris in the spring

Paris in the spring

To celebrate the publication of OUP’s new bilingual Compact dictionaries in May, we are featuring a series of blog posts regarding French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Italian over the coming weeks. In this first post, Joanna Rubery considers the far-reaching effects of Parisian culture, including French words to be heard in the streets of South […]

The old masters - Poetry by Heart

The old masters – Poetry by Heart

I recently watched Andrew Graham Dixon’s enthralling new programme on the BBC, ‘High Art of the Low Countries’. His analysis of Breughel’s Landscape with the fall of Icarus was masterful, and as I watched, and listened, I became aware of Auden’s poem, ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, reassembling in my memory, even before part of it was […]

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Who's confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and

Who’s confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and similar suffixes?

For those of you who’ve been following my occasional series about homophonous affixes (or, to put it another way, word-endings and -beginnings that sound the same when spoken!), you should now know your -ables from your -ibles and be proficient in fore- versus for- or four. There are plenty more similar-sounding affixes, though, so I thought […]

Woman - or Suffragette?

Woman – or Suffragette?

In 1903, the motto ‘Deeds not Words’ was adopted by Emmeline Pankhurst as the slogan of the new Women’s Social and Political Union. This aimed above all to secure women the vote, but it marked a deliberate departure in the methods to be used. Over fifty years of peaceful campaigning had brought no change to […]

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