John Simpson - Chief Editor OED

Cricket and the Queen Mum: the OED’s Chief Editor discusses some fascinating words

Yesterday it was announced that John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, will be retiring in October 2013. The full press release can be read on the OED website, and it seems an appropriate time to ask John Simpson to discuss some of the more fascinating words and expressions he has worked on: It’s hard […]

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Play ball!

Play ball!

In spring, as the saying goes, “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to love.” Who first penned that immortal mush, anyway? You well-read literary types probably know it was Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem “Locksley Hall,” and I suppose that was romantic of him, but the way I see it, when love becomes a […]

shakespeare bible

Bible or Bard?

23 April, as every schoolchild knows, is probably the birthday, and definitely the deathday, of England’s most famous writer: William Shakespeare, often known simply as the Bard. (We don’t know his exact birth date, but he was baptized on 26 April, and it lends his life an appropriately poetic balance to assume he was born […]

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"All my love's in vain": the language of the blues

“All my love’s in vain”: the language of the blues

The following is an extract from The Blues: A Very Short Introduction by Elijah Wald (OUP 2010) pp.116-9 Even the greatest blues songwriters have seen no harm in reworking each other’s phrases. As with hip-hop sampling, the idea is to create something unique and new by a combination of borrowing, reworking, and adding original touches—with […]

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vampires

Vampires say the funniest things! A quiz of quotations from famous bloodsuckers

Like those of the creature itself, the origins of the word vampire are somewhat mysterious. The word comes to English from the Hungarian, perhaps having its roots in a Turkish word for a witch. It was introduced into English around the early 1700s in fascinating accounts of European legends. A little later in the same […]

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Solve-it-yourself mysteries #94: the crossword

Solve-it-yourself mysteries #94: the crossword

“Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! ‘The Cross Word Puzzle Book’ is out today.” – F. P. Adams, ‘The Conning Tower’, New York World In April 1924, Simon and Schuster burst onto the New York publishing scene with The Cross Word Puzzle Book, which soon became a bestseller. The crossword was ten years old at the time, and had been gaining […]

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Ay caramba! A look at some of the language of The Simpsons

Ay caramba! A look at some of the language of The Simpsons

19 April marks the anniversary of the first airing of The Simpsons on American television – on the Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. Not the first episode mind, that wouldn’t appear until 1989. Fans of the show, of which there are many, might be dismayed to know that there are only 3 quotations from the […]

The Grapes of Wrath and the language of the Dust Bowl

The Grapes of Wrath and the language of the Dust Bowl

Seventy-eight years ago, a monstrous black dust cloud blotted out the sun above the American plains. This dust cloud, though the worst, was only one of the dozens of “black blizzards” that since 1931 had plagued Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and large swathes of surrounding states —the area which, at that time, recently had been coined […]

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