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

Tag: English in use

Why is something that is the very best known as ‘the bee’s knees’?

The bee's knees

This curious expression is one of many similar sayings for something that is the acme of excellence. We are all familiar with the cat’s whiskers (or the cat’s pyjamas, the cat’s meow, and the cat’s nuts), which originated in the roaring 1920s and which might well have been the first of its kind—it is said […]

The language of cooking: from ‘Forme of Cury’ to ‘Pukka Tucker’

The language of cooking: from 'Forme of Cury' to 'Pukka Tukka'

The earliest surviving English-language recipes came from the kitchens of kings and their great nobles. Richard II’s Master Cooks boasted that their Forme of Cury contained only the ‘best and royallest viand of all Christian Kings’, and, what’s more, had been approved by the king’s physicians and philosophers. Healthy eating issues and celebrity endorsements are […]

Takei-tastic word-shenaniganza

Takei-tastic word-shenaniganza

The actor George Takei, hailed as a social media superstar, recently invited his fans to invent new words and submit them to him with their proposed definitions. Here at Oxford Dictionaries we’re always monitoring new words and meanings for inclusion in our dictionaries: once a word or phrase has gained enough traction, and we’ve recorded […]

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

Other than as an ironic idiom for ‘no more than’ (e.g., sex with Edgar lasts all of twenty seconds), does all of have any legit uses? The answer is a qualified, complicated, and personally embarrassed yes. Here’s the story. An irksome habit of many student writers is to just automatically stick an of between all […]

Read more »

Writing for grown-up people: George Eliot and the Oxford English Dictionary

Book Lover's Day: George Eliot

In celebration of Book Lover’s Day, we asked four of our dictionary editors to tell us about their favourite writers. Each of the writers featured is in the top 1000 cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary. If you subscribe to the OED Online (many UK libraries offer free access if you provide your library […]

German loanwords in the English language

German loanwords in the English language

Cockroach, lantern, algebra, sabbath – these are only a few of the loanwords that we use in the English language without them striking us as being particularly unusual. Appropriately, ‘loanword’ itself is a loan translation (a so-called calque) of the German Lehnwort (Lehn from leihen = ‘lend’ + Wort = ‘word’). Throughout history, English has […]

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

We all strive to leave a legacy. We remember history’s greats through plaques and monuments, books and movies, songs and works of art. Another (often overlooked) way we pay homage to people of the past is through language. We might name a place, a theorem, or even a disease after the person who first visited […]

Okey-dokey! The story of the birth of OK’s playful grandchild

Okey-dokey! The story of the birth of OK’s playful grandchild

By the early twentieth century, OK was no longer a joke. The letters O and K did not prompt memories of the misspelled oll korrect, nor did they stimulate alternative explanations. In the nineteenth century, OK was recognized as a humorous abbreviation, but in the twentieth, it was understood merely as an arbitrary combination of […]

Tweets