scrabble

Scrabble: a logophile’s view

National Scrabble Day was on 13 April, and it feels like a good opportunity to celebrate the wordiest of all games. Even if you’ve never played it – and, let’s face it, we’ve all played it – you’ll be familiar with the concept: players use seven letter tiles to create words on a board, intersecting […]

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jeans

Can -core survive normcore?

What do President Obama, Steve Jobs, and the Toyota Camry have in common? In recent weeks all three have been described as “normcore,” a supposed fashion trend in which the sartorial elite eschew their usual sui generis styles for dowdy clothing of the type ordinary people wear. The concept may have originated as satire, but […]

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Remembering the language of Seamus Heaney

When Seamus Heaney’s death was announced last year the prevailing mood was one of sadness; a feeling that the world had not only lost a great poet but a kind and humane man. Thinking about Heaney, as we near what would have been his 75th birthday, I was prompted to revisit his first full-length collection […]

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1920s words include 'makeover' and 'it girl'.

20 words from the 1920s

The 1920s wasn’t just a period of decadence and flappers in a post-war haze of happiness. (‘Flapper’, by the way, emerged before the 1920s – lexicographer Allan Metcalf has nominated it as Word of the Year 1915.) While The Great Gatsby drew attention to a world of insouciant pleasure-seeking, the 1920s also saw plenty of […]

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golf

Birdies, bogeys, and baffies: the language of golf

Golfing jargon can seem rather arcane to the uninitiated, so here is a short guide to help you navigate the bunkers and water hazards of golf language. Competitors will be aiming to make par – the standard number of shots allowed for each hole (from the Latin for ‘equal’) – hence the expression ‘par for the […]

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Looking for love… and other popular search terms from 2014 so far

searchmonitor

If you’re reading this, you almost certainly use Oxford Dictionaries Online, and if you use Oxford Dictionaries Online, you’ve probably used the search box – and have you ever wondered which words receive the highest number of search requests? It’s a question we’re often asked, and the results are interesting and sometimes amusing. This interactive […]

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Is there such a thing as untranslatable words?

Are there untranslatable words?

There’s no such thing as an untranslatable word. There, I’ve said it. Despite all the memes, blogs, and books to the contrary, all language is inherently translatable. However, whether the broader meaning of a text – the jokes, philosophies, and cultural peculiarities of its language – is translatable depends almost entirely on the individual with their nose […]

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What's up with conscious uncoupling?

The history of ‘conscious uncoupling’

With the announcement that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin would be separating, the term ‘conscious uncoupling’ was launched into the mainstream. While the news of any separation is sad, we can’t deny that the report also carried some linguistic interest. The phrase was picked up by journalists, commentators, and tweeters around the world. Some called […]

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