Translatable vs untranslatable

In a guest blog post, and following on from her article about ‘untranslatable’ Russian words, Caroline James questions the idea that some words are simply untranslatable. For most language learners and lovers, translation is a hot topic. Should I translate new vocabulary into my first language? How can I say x in Japanese? Is this […]

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record player

James Brown in the OED

With the recent release of the James Brown biopic Get On Up, directed by Tate Taylor and starring Chadwick Boseman, I thought it might be worth reflecting on the legacy of Mr Dynamite. It goes without saying that James Brown contributed in enduring ways to the history of pop music; there’s good reason for his […]

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origin of banana

What is the origin of ‘banana’?

Banana appears to be a tropical African word, but its lexical origins represent only a single stage in the fruit’s worldwide wanderings before it reached British shores. Asian origins? It probably first grew in Southeast Asia, and did not make a big impact elsewhere until the early Islamic period when it was brought from India […]

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90s language

Achy-breaky words: the language of the nineties

Though they’re well over a decade past, the nineties occupy an unusual place in the cultural zeitgeist. A whole new decade has come and gone since, and yet popular culture still has yet to decide what precisely the nineties were “about”. For better or for worse, many of the decades preceding the nineties have their […]

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on the radar

On the radar: July 2014

Oxford’s lexicography team monitors many new English words which are still too new or rare to be included in our dictionaries. Here is a roundup of a few neologisms that have caught our eyes recently. oxt Lexicographers typically discover new words when we encounter them “in the wild”, used unselfconsciously by people who are confident […]

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bread idioms

The greatest thing since bread idioms

When it comes to offering both nutritional and linguistic value, no food is more nourishing than good ol’, plain ol’ bread. For centuries, bread has been a symbol of the ultimate sustenance – and bread idioms and proverbs further emphasize its dual status as a provider of life and a measure of how well that […]

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fashion words

Fedoras to mullets: decades of fashion words

It can be pretty difficult to keep track of current fashion trends; it seems as soon as you finally become accustomed to one (and have incorporated it into your own wardrobe), another style invariably comes along to replace it. However, even decades after the trends themselves are no longer to be found behind storefront windows […]

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Quebec French

Quebec French and the question of identity

A brief history of the French language in Quebec The French language came to North America with the first French settlers in the 17th century. French and British forces had long been at war before the final victory of Britain in the mid 18th century; after the loss of New France, France lost contact with […]

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