18 awesome ways to say awesome

As we recently asked our followers on Twitter: are you tired of the word awesome? Do you want a different way to express the same idea? Well, we’ve delved around in the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, and come up with eighteen synonyms for awesome (in the sense meaning ‘excellent’, rather than its original […]

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Say one thing and mean your mother: the language of Freudianism

It is difficult to realize, from a distance of nearly a century, quite the impact that Sigmund Freud and his theories had upon polite society of the 1920s and ‘30s. The novelist D.H. Lawrence wrote that ‘the Oedipus complex was a household word, the incest motive a commonplace of tea-time chat’, and popular guides to […]

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Tiramisu and steam irons: Good Housekeeping in the OED

Your first thought, when you think of the magazine Good Housekeeping, might not be that it is a source for lexicographers. Founded in the US on 2 May 1885, it perhaps brings to mind recipes, health tips, and pieces about fashion – all of which is true, although you might not know that it has […]

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affect effect

Affect versus effect: a quick visual guide

What’s the difference between affect and effect? We know that a lot of people get confused about the difference between affect and effect – so we’ve put together a handy infographic to help you out. You can even print it out and stick it above your desk for quick reference. All the essentials are here, […]

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Data and media: two tricky Latin plurals and how to handle them

Your data was corrupted… Wah! First thought: I’ve lost some work. Second thought (typical grammar geek!): shouldn’t that be ‘…data were corrupted’? In the strictest sense, yes, because it’s all a question of ensuring that you match singular subjects with singular verbs, and ditto plural subjects and verbs, a process called agreement. Easy when it’s […]

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Q tips: some rule-breaking words beginning with q

One of the first spelling rules that young children are taught is ‘i before e except after c’. Once they encounter words like neighbour, foreign, and weight, it soon becomes clear that there are exceptions. The same is also then true of another rule, namely ‘always use u after q’. There are at least a […]

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19th century engraving of a platypus

Ask a lexicographer: part 4

Every now and again, we like to share a few of the very interesting questions sent to us by users of Oxford Dictionaries. Read how our lexicographers tackle questions about British and American English usage and the written treatment of foreign words. What is the plural of platypus? Is it platypodes? Platypodes is one possibility […]

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Is there a word to describe how you eat chocolate?

Earlier today, BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans asked me if there was a word for what you do when you eat chocolate. You don’t exactly chew it but sucking doesn’t seem quite right either. Coincidentally, at a chocolate festival I attended last weekend, during a chocolate tasting session the chocolatier instructed us not to eat […]

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