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From lamingtons to sandwiches: looking at eponymous foods

For some, Anna Pavlova is considered one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. For others, her legacy lives on in the form of the dessert she inspired. We celebrate her birthday on 31 January (by the Old Style of dating; her actual birthday according to the Gregorian calendar would be 12 February), and in […]

Word stories: 'rum'

Word stories: ‘rum’

The word rum is first recorded in 1654 in the Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, where it is mentioned along with another of its names kill-devil: Berbados Liquors, commonly called Rum, Kill Deuill, or the like. The word itself is of obscure origin, being somehow related to rumbullion and rumbustion, words whose origins […]

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From ‘carbonation’ to ‘navy blue': which words came to life 200 years ago?

If the dawning of the New Year invariably brings you to brood upon the inexorable march of time, you find yourself in good company. Here at the Oxford English Dictionary, we are very aware of how what society does—and even how society thinks—is much informed by the movement from past to present, and onward into […]

Loose or lose?

Loose or lose?

Help! I am loosing the will to live with my smartphone! Aargh! I almost lost the will to live when I spotted the above mistake, but simultaneously wished that my Inner Spellchecker would give it a rest, so that I could simply appreciate the content of what I read rather than be distracted by spelling […]

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The challenges of learning a language as an adult

Ah, my teenage years! Spandex-clad 1980s rockers on 7-inch vinyl records, Senna and Mansell winning Formula One races, learning to code on a Sinclair Spectrum, and watching The A-Team, Dempsey and Makepeace, or Cagney and Lacey on the TV. Imagine, only four channels! And school. I can’t say I liked school a lot, being a […]

A profusion of words

A profusion of words

Please note: several of the following links to dictionary content require subscriber access to the OED Online. The early modern period was an era of great change for the English language. According to the OED’s record, the number of words ‘available’ to speakers of English more than doubled between 1500 and 1650. Many of the new words […]

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A comic quotation quiz

A comic quotation quiz

Moliere wrote in La critique de l’école des femmes (1663) that ‘it’s an odd job, making decent people laugh.’ In the hopes that 2013 will be filled with delightful oddity and humor, we present this quiz, drawn from the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations. Edited by the late Ned Sherrin, the dictionary compiles words of […]

Automotive nostalgia

Automotive nostalgia

A few weeks ago, when a character on TV mentioned his DeSoto, my daughter asked, “What’s a DeSoto?” “A car,” I answered, choking on my realization that there was no reason for a 25-year-old to have heard of a DeSoto. But I had actually ridden in a DeSoto—and not in an antique car parade. The […]

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