Do you know your -ibles from your -ables?

Do you know your -ibles from your -ables?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that we’ve featured postings on homophones over the past few months, but all of them have been complete words, such as pedal and peddle. Of course, suffixes (word endings) and prefixes (word beginnings) can also sound the same in English, causing no end of […]

Glissandos and glissandon’ts

Glissandos and glissandon’ts

“GLISSANDO. A term unfortunately used by composers anywhere but in Italy to indicate a rapid glide over the notes of a scale on keyboard instruments and the harp, as well as a slur with no definite intervals on strings and on the trombone. Italians do not use it for the simple reason that it is […]

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So far, so bad.

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 […]

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The language of P.G. Wodehouse

By Jove! 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 […]

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