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Cult films in the OED

Cult films are slippery customers. One person’s cult film is another’s mainstream hit, and both would probably be prepared to fight to the death to defend their opinion. For some a film can only be described as ‘cult’ if just a handful of people have seen it. For others it is a film that did […]

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The advantage of ‘trans’

In the late 1990s, I attended a conference focused on “those who identify at the male end of the gender spectrum.” At the end of the conference, organizers asked each participant to fill out an exit poll, intended to capture demographic information about conference attendees. In addition to the usual geographic/age-related questions, organizers asked about […]

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From muggle to whizzpopper: invented words in children’s literature

When Roald Dahl invented words such as lickswishy, which describes the way English boys taste to giants in The BFG (1982), and whizzpoppers, the enjoyable propelling farts produced by the same giants after they drink frobskottle, he was following in a tradition among children’s writers of coining neologisms that dates back at least as far […]

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What exactly does 'ich bin ein Berliner' mean?

‘Ich bin ein Berliner’, JFK, and jam doughnuts

The fall of the Berlin Wall (initially called antifaschistischer Schutzwall, or ‘anti-fascist protective barrier’) in 1989 is a momentous occasion in German history and a crucial milestone hailing the end of the GDR, which had been founded in 1949 and was officially dissolved in 1990. Over 51 years, the GDR formed an important part of […]

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Timeline: smoke to vape – tobacco over time

Long before Europeans arrived in the Americas, tobacco was part of the culture of many Native American tribes. These tribes had many different uses for the plant, ranging from recreational and ceremonial use to the plant’s use in various medical capacities, in particular as a painkiller. The American origins of the plant can still be […]

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Quiz: can you match the Word of the Year to the year?

Are you an expert on word trends? Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries editors select one word that they feel reflects “the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year” to award it with the ‘Word of the Year’ title. Over the years, the UK and US editorial teams have often chosen a different Word of […]

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love words

What do we love about new words?

The lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries keep watch on our collective neology and select a word—or words–of the year: a word that is both forward-looking and reflects the culture of the current year. From 2004 we’ve had chav, podcast, carbon-neutral, locavore, hypermiling, unfriend, refudiate, squeezed middle, the verb GIF, and selfie. And in the UK, which […]

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Video: Word of the Year… what would you choose?

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