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

The Oxford Chinese Dictionary is online!

Chinese characters

Chinese characters not displaying properly? Oxford University Press is excited to announce the online launch of the Oxford Chinese Dictionary, a landmark publication that has already established itself as the must-have printed companion of students and teachers of Chinese around the world, since it was published in 2010. But how is a Chinese dictionary made? […]

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Quotations for every occasion

Henry VIII

  One of the most interesting aspects of working with quotations is seeing how words from one occasion are applicable to another. The recent controversy over the sale of Forestry Commission land brought to mind the words of the poet William Blake, writing over 200 years ago: ‘The tree which moves some to tears of […]

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Mapping the origins of English

Mapping the origins of English

Today’s English owes much to many of the world’s languages, from French and German to Chinese and Hindi. Our interactive map below is the first of an occasional series which will offer you a glimpse of the range of linguistic influences that English has absorbed.

Click on the map to see how English has been shaped by French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Flemish. Your armchair travels should give you some interesting discoveries: could you guess the origins of fluff, anchovy, vamoose, and baize?

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Canny lads and radgie gadgies

Newcastle

And they’re like ‘what does canny mean?’ With this complaint, a 20-year-old from Gateshead whose data is recorded in the new Diachronic Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (DECTE) explains that on occasion some of her fellow students, who weren’t fortunate enough to grow up in the North East, just don’t get what she’s talking about. […]

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GTL, DTS, and T-shirt time: a look at Jersey Shore’s lingo

Weights

As a New Jersey native and self-confessed reality TV junkie, I enjoy watching the television show Jersey Shore, and recognizing some of the local vocabulary  – terms like benny (a non-local who comes down to the Shore, usually used in a pejorative sense) and youse (an informal plural of ‘you’). The show also introduced me to […]

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A penny for your thoughts …

Penny

According to some, today is ‘Lucky Penny Day’. The OED describes a ‘lucky penny’ as usually one that is bent or perforated, or sometimes an old or foreign coin. In the early nineteenth century, a ‘luck-penny’ was defined as ‘the cash which the seller gives back to the buyer after the latter has paid him; […]

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Has the culture of the ‘celeb’ begun to decline?

Paparazzi

The Oxford English Corpus, our unique two-billion word database of real twenty-first century English, shows that the use of celebrity has risen steadily since the year 2000 – but the use of the informal abbreviation celeb has dropped since 2006. Perhaps this suggests that the public may be starting to tire of these trashy, wannabe, […]

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How a single word can change a life

Cornwall

When I was 13½, my life at school became almost unbearable. To explain why, I need to go back to the beginning. I was born on the outskirts of a tiny fishing village in Cornwall, less than half an hour from the most south-westerly tip of the UK. I grew up in a nearby town, […]

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