Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (part 2)

Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (part 2)

Earlier in the year, inspired by the anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, OxfordWords discussed a variety of eponymous French inventions, from madeleine to nicotine. In this second part, we turn our attention towards other French inventions which bear the name of the person who discovered, invented, or inspired them… A shadow of his former self […]

Roosting on your laurels: chickens, champions, and the Pulitzer Prize

Roosting on your laurels: chickens, champions, and the Pulitzer Prize

“In 1957, Eugene O’Neill won a Pullet Surprise”. I read this recently in a book of classroom howlers, a collection of humorous mistakes that students have made in their schoolwork. It’s easy to laugh, but perhaps it signifies that not everyone is familiar with Pulitzer Prizes. It turns out that 4 June is a good […]

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette If you had aspirations of being a disaffected youth in the mid-1990s, chances are you had a copy of Alanis Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill. That’s not quite fair; you might, after all, have been the sort who dealt with angst by listening to Black Sabbath, or […]

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Mother's Day limerick

Mother’s Day limerick competition: the winner

Thank you very much to everyone who entered our recent competition, where we asked you to compose a limerick to celebrate Mother’s Day (13 May in the US and various countries around the world) since it coincided with Limerick Day this year. This competition closed on Wednesday 29 May. We had many exceptionally good entries, […]

Book_stack

Ask a lexicographer: part 3

Every now and again, we like to share a few of the very interesting questions sent to us by users of Oxford Dictionaries. Read on to learn about grammatical and conventional markings, the complex origins of a spelling convention, and more. Which colour? You can say either. Both have entries in the Oxford English Dictionary, […]

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Florence

Why learn Italian?

“Marjorie!” Sighing with relief, I looked around the rows of old-fashioned single desks, wondering who the unfortunate Marjorie was. Our fierce and flame-haired Italian professoressa was picking on lone students to perform grammatical acrobatics. It was eight o’clock on a dark December morning and my Introduzione all’italiano module was not going well. “Marjorie!” – poor […]

The Riot of Spring: music and madness in the beau monde

The Riot of Spring: music and madness in the beau monde

On 27 May 1913, fashionable Paris was scandalized by the premiere of a new ballet. Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring, as it is usually known in English), with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, depicted pagan ceremonies for the coming of spring, culminating in the sacrifice of a young […]

Do we need the apostrophe?

Do we need the apostrophe?

“The apostrophe is the most troublesome punctuation mark in English, and perhaps also the least useful. No other punctuation mark causes so much bewilderment, or is so often misused.” R.L. Trask, The Penguin Guide to Punctuation The recent decision by Devon County Council to drop the apostrophe from its road signs was met with dismay and anger […]

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