Favourite words?

David Crystal’s favourite words

What’s your favourite word? It’s a difficult question for anyone to answer, but it’s even trickier if you’re a leading expert on the English language. David Crystal is one of the world’s greatest authorities on the English language and has written many books on the subject. The forthcoming book Wordsmiths and Warriors by David and Hilary […]

Early Grey: The results of the OED Appeal on Earl Grey tea

c.1928 History of Feminine Fashion (House of Worth), advertising front matter

Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845), was born on 13 March. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the early 1830s, but is most famous today for his association with Earl Grey tea, a type of China tea flavoured with the citrus extract bergamot. But did Earl Grey ever actually drink Earl […]

What do you call a librarian on Tumblr?

What do you call a librarian on Tumblr?

There is nothing, it seems, that the Internet loves so much as . . . well, cats falling off draining boards, but second to that, it’s abbreviations. As technology and social media expand, and communities continue to grow across the Internet, so language and language use develop and adapt to cater to new situations. From […]

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Mumbo-jumbo and plocking: Vita Sackville-West in the OED

On 9 March 2013, Vita Sackville-West would have been 121 years old. By birth she was a Victorian, but she spent her life railing against the stifling conventions of her parents’ generation. She and her husband Harold Nicolson enjoyed a famously open marriage; one of Vita Sackville-West’s many lovers was the novelist Virginia Woolf, who […]

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scones

How do you pronounce scone?

If you’re ever looking to liven up a tea party with some fully-fledged warfare, then can I suggest that you try something subtler than putting salt in the sugar bowl or pushing someone down the stairs? Simply point to the curranty baked goods on the Cath Kidston three-tiered cake stand, and ask: “Scone or scone?” […]

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Argh, muggins, and pleasure boat: diarists in the OED

Argh, muggins, and pleasure boat: diarists in the OED

Diaries hold a special place in literature. They can provide a uniquely personal snapshot of the world at a particular time. When I was younger, it seemed like every year brought forth a particular New Year’s resolution – this would be the year I would begin my diary and, more importantly, keep it going. Yet, […]

A-tremble and dimplement: Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the OED

A-tremble and dimplement: Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the OED

Did you know that Elizabeth Barrett Browning is the fifth most quoted woman in the OED’s illustrative quotations? I was tipped off to this rather surprising fact a few days ago, and thought I’d take a look at where she pops up. Amazingly, she is currently quoted no fewer than 1,530 times, starting, alphabetically, with […]

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Whale-horses and Morses: the Walrus in the OED

Whale-horses and morses: Tolkien and the walrus in the OED

With the once-in-a-lifetime visit by a young male walrus to the island of North Ronaldsay in Orkney making the news on 3 March, it seems like a good time to look back at the coincidence of one particularly famous Oxford lexicographer’s tussle with the history of the word ‘walrus’, and an earlier visit by a […]

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