Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Baseball: America’s national language?

Baseball: America’s national language?

Baseball is one the oldest professional sports played in North America today. The first recorded baseball game took place in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1845; the first televised game between professional teams pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939; and this year marks the 107th Major League Baseball (MLB) Championship, more commonly […]

The rise of the app

The rise of the app

With Apple’s latest iPhone released today, and its Google rival reportedly soon to follow, there will soon be more ‘apps’ in use than ever before. For the increasing number of us who own a smartphone or tablet, apps have become a part of 21st century life. And they’re big business: the market in apps is […]

Seventy years young

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Borrowed words We all find at times that we reach for the words of others to express just what we want to say. Gleaming red berries through the fog of a September morning may remind the more literary of John Keats’s ‘season of mists, and mellow fruitfulness’. The Indian summer of 2011, on the other […]

Hyphens in the headlines

Man eating chicken

Who’d have thunk it? The humble hyphen, the shorter sibling of the dash, is in the media spotlight, and for once it has nothing to do with dictionaries, either. The celebrity gossip websites have been buzzing with news of Lauren Pierce Bush, niece of former US President George W. Bush. Lauren’s marriage to David Lauren […]

Putting the accent on English

Putting the accent on English

A recent article in the New York Times describes a somewhat controversial (and no longer current) program that was run in public schools in the state of Arizona for nearly a decade – sending monitors to judge whether English teachers had an accent. If a teacher was thought to have too strong an accent, he […]

Of moms and men: what two small words reveal about big social changes

Of moms and men

The Oxford English Dictionary’s evidence files reveal an interesting trend: in recent years, the number of phrases designating types of mothers (on the model of [X] mother) has grown much faster than the number of comparable terms for fathers. Since 1990, OED has tracked roughly 40% more maternal terms than their paternal counterparts. But why […]

Flannel trousers are not English!

Celtic cross

One of the facets of English that makes a job working with dictionary data so interesting is its readiness to appropriate loanwords from other languages – seeing the etymology of a familiar word such as ‘ketchup’ for example, and finding it probably has its origins in Chinese. Everybody needs good neighbours We see plenty of […]

It’s all about the nuance – synonyms and the Oxford English Corpus

It’s all about the nuance

There are few words that share an exact set of definitions – it is almost a guarantee that there will be some subtle differences between one word and its synonym.  Sometimes these nuances are so subtle that they can be difficult to articulate fully in a definition, and only become apparent through examining usage. Oxford […]

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