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Inventors’ Day is typically celebrated in honour of all the great minds past and present that have come up with a process or thing that helped make our everyday lives easier. But what about those inventors of words that have enriched our lexicon with their language? Let’s take a look at fifteen authors, and the words […]more
It is virtually impossible for an English-language lexicographer to ignore the long shadow cast by Henry James, that late nineteenth-century writer of fiction, criticism, and travelogues. We can attribute this in the first place to the sheer cosmopolitanism of his prose. James’s writing marks the point of intersection between registers and regions of English that […]more
Lawrence Durrell was an author for readers of dictionaries par excellence. And while that may seem peculiar praise, it also shapes one way of reading the man. Dictionaries have an indexical nature, and the most labour intensive word for a reader is “See…” Durrell tells us he structures his books as siblings not sequels (a […]more
Dorothy L. Sayers, born in 1893, was a detective novelist, Christian writer, Dante translator, a glorious wordsmith, and a true daughter of Oxford, blood and bone: her father was chaplain of Christ Church Cathedral School, and she took first class honours in medieval literature at Somerville in 1915. An American such as myself daring to reflect […]more
Virginia Woolf was a prolific writer whose successes include works of fiction, biography, and essay. Her contributions to the English language are certainly not to be overlooked; indeed, she is among the top 1000 most cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary, and had a predilection for coining terms—mostly phrasal adjectives—herself. Descriptions of “heavy-lidded” eyes, […]more
Few authors cited in the Oxford English Dictionary are responsible for as many unusual words as the seventeenth century physician, Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682). Browne’s erudite enquiries into science and religion are notable for their wit, their fascination with the natural world, and their attraction to the esoteric, and all of these characteristics are evident […]more
So far as I know the whole of English fiction has only one character who works for the Oxford English Dictionary. In Aldous Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza we see John Beavis at breakfast, with an unappreciated twinkle in his eye, explaining to two little children the etymology of porridge. He’s cited in the OED at […]more