railway track

Word histories: conscious uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (better known as an Oscar-winning actress and the Grammy-winning lead singer of Coldplay respectively) recently announced that they would be separating. While the news of any separation is sad, we can’t deny that the report also carried some linguistic interest. In the announcement, on Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop, the pair […]

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9 words you need to know to win the Game of Thrones

With the return of George R. R. Martin’s epic series to TV screens it’s time to brush up on your knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. For the full story on the language of Game of Thrones read our blog post. Whether you have nefarious designs on the Iron Throne itself, or you’re just too […]

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Shape up: weird and wonderful words for forms

Sitting in a circle, playing the triangle, being a square – we’re all familiar with common words for shapes (and some of their figurative uses). As you got further in school, you’ll no doubt have learnt more and more shapes – from square and rectangle to rhombus and dodecagon. But words to do with shapes […]

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What impact did Hans Christian Andersen have on children’s literature?

An extract from the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, available on Oxford Reference. Although Andersen considered himself a novelist and playwright, his novels, dramas, and comedies are almost forgotten today, while his unquestionable fame is based on his fairy tales. He published four collections: Eventyr, fortalte for børn (Fairy Tales, Told for Children, 1835–1842), Nye […]

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April Fool's Day

True or false? An April Fool’s Day OED quiz

April Fool’s Day, also called All Fool’s Day, has been celebrated for centuries, but its origins are unknown. Although there are different customs all over the world to mark the day, the central theme is to play jokes or pranks. We’re not usually in the business of fooling our readers, but that doesn’t mean we […]

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question mark

Elicit or illicit?

1. Such a question isn’t intended to elicit an answer. 2. VHF radio calls from the coastguard and other ships were illiciting no response. 3. He brazenly carried on an elicit affair with Bert’s wife. 4. She admitted to having been in possession of illicit drugs. 5. You can imagine the amount of booing this […]

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Worder to prattle box: what to call the talkative person in your life

By popular demand of our Twitter followers, we wanted to share synonyms for ‘talkative person’ from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Historical Thesaurus charts the semantic development of the English language, and is the first comprehensive historical thesaurus produced for any language. With 800,000 words and meanings, in 235,000 entry categories, […]

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From early doors to blood-tub: language relating to theatre

The lure of the greasepaint has long attracted people, from Mrs Worthington’s daughter to the latest contestants on reality shows to pick the next star of a West End remake. So on World Theatre Day, await the swish of the curtain, don’t let the super troupers blind you, and get ready to tread the boards […]

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