Minor slip - guzz

A Minor case: OED contributions from a prison cell

17 February will mark a significant date in the annals of the Oxford English Dictionary. 17 February 1872 was the date on which a Dr. William Chester Minor, American army surgeon, shot and killed George Merrett in the early hours of the morning on a gloomy Lambeth street. Not an auspicious date, granted, but Minor […]

Abraham Lincoln

If Obama had been Lincoln: 10 lines from Obama’s Second Inaugural Address that wouldn’t have been used in 1865

When writing his screenplay for the film Lincoln, playwright Tony Kushner used his copy of the Oxford English Dictionary to check for possible anachronisms, seeking to impart the flavor of 19th-century English to the script. How much has the vocabulary of English changed since Abraham Lincoln’s presidency? About 25% of the OED’s entries are for words […]

Chinese New Year

Some Chinese wisdom for Chinese New Year

10 February is an important date this year because it is the first day of the new lunar year, marking the first day in the Chinese New Year. The Chinese calendar names each of the years (in a twelve year cycle) after an animal, and 2013 is the Year of the Snake. Chinese New Year, also […]

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When does ‘wrong’ become ‘right’?

People can go a bit funny when I tell them I edit dictionaries for a living. They get nervous and hesitant, as if they’re expecting me to leap on them at any moment, mock their use of grammar, laugh cruelly at their mispronunciations, and pour scorn on their woefully limited vocabulary. But nothing could be […]

Murray family

‘Dr. Murray, Oxford’: a remarkable Editor

Dictionaries never simply spring into being, but represent the work and research of many. Only a select few of the people who have helped create the Oxford English Dictionary, however, can lay claim to the coveted title ‘Editor’. In the first of an occasional series on the Editors of the OED, Peter Gilliver introduces the […]

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Abolishing angst regarding among versus amongst

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One of our readers raised the following useful query a few months ago: What’s the difference between among and amongst? Happy to help! In the spirit of the January sales that are just winding down here in the UK, I thought I’d make this blog a twofer and deal with while and whilst at the […]

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Tackling the language of Super Bowl Sunday

Tackling the language of Super Bowl Sunday

Imagine with me for a moment. It is February 3, 2013. A Sunday. But not just any Sunday, oh no. It is Super Bowl Sunday. And this year, the party’s at your place—with all the excitement, stress, and post-game cleaning-up that hosting these parties entails. So here you are, at home, ensconced by family and […]

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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 […]

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