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

So far, so bad.

shutterstock_110095070

I found myself looking up the origin of ‘curmudgeon’ last week. Defined as ‘bad-tempered, difficult, or cantankerous’, its components once meant, more or less, ‘a growling grimacer’. This last description sums up almost exactly my facial expression when I hear a language tic of the moment that has knocked ‘going forward’ off the top of […]

Georgette Heyer, zaftig, and the Oxford English Dictionary

Georgette Heyer, zaftig, and the Oxford English Dictionary

“My name is Claire Etty. And I am a reader of historical novels.” Apologies for the AA-style confession. But every time my boyfriend spots a Georgette Heyer open on the coffee table he sneers (from behind his New Statesman): “Exercising the grey cells again?” It usually is Georgette Heyer. I’m aux anges over her books, […]

Taking the credit

Taking the credit

October 16 is the anniversary of the birthday of Oscar Wilde, described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography simply as ‘writer’ but also one of the stalwarts of dictionaries of quotations. Indeed, he even appears as the subject of some quotations – as Dorothy Parker said: If, with the literate, I am Impelled to […]

a disappearing poet of always: e.e. cummings and his language

a disappearing poet of always: e. e. cummings and his language

Editor’s note: This article has been abridged to remove references to some of Cummings’s more explicitly sexual poetry. Read the extended version of this article here. Caution: contains strong language. October 14 marked the anniversary of the birth of the American poet and artist E. E. Cummings. If you know anything about Cummings, it is probably […]

Searching finding

Ask a lexicographer

Every now and again, we like to share a few of the very interesting questions sent to us by fans of Oxford Dictionaries. Read on to see how our experts tackle texting, the Bible, and one very difficult name. Standard messaging rates apply Answer: For nouns ending in ‘s’ you would add ‘es’ to make them […]

Read more »

By Jove! The language of P.G. Wodehouse

The language of P.G. Wodehouse

My dad introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse when I was a teenager. Not for a moment did it occur to him that a 14-year-old girl whose first language was Afrikaans and who had never left the African continent might not find immediate resonance with Bertie Wooster, Lord Ickenham, Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps, Gussie Fink-Nottle, and co., or […]

Fantasies: what would you do to improve the English language?

Fantasies: what would you do to improve the English language?

On holiday driving through the city at three in the morning you realize what life could be like. Gliding across junctions that are normally clogged up and impassable; rolling along sections of road in two minutes that would keep you half an hour in the morning rush hour; crossing the river you’ve scarcely noticed for […]

Doin’ it your own way

Doin' it your own way

As a result of my job and my interests I follow a lot of logophiles, copywriters, proof readers, and harmless drudges through my social media accounts. One group among those I follow are the style guides for various different media organisations organizations, people whose job it is to ensure that writing appearing under the name of […]

Tweets