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

19th century engraving of a platypus

Ask a lexicographer: part 4

Every now and again, we like to share a few of the very interesting questions sent to us by users of Oxford Dictionaries. Read how our lexicographers tackle questions about British and American English usage and the written treatment of foreign words. What is the plural of platypus? Is it platypodes? Platypodes is one possibility […]

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Henry James books

Henry James, or, on the business of being a thing

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 […]

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searchmonitor

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

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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New York library

More tales from an OED researcher

More notes from the field, courtesy of your New York researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Tell people you work for the OED, and they seem to think that you have some mystical authority over the use (or misuse) of the language. (I especially like the random Twitter questions – adjudicating biographies, passing muster […]

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US Supreme Court

How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?

For 20 years, 14 of those in England, I’ve been giving lectures about the social power afforded to dictionaries, exhorting my students to discard the belief that dictionaries are infallible authorities. The students laugh at my stories about nuns who told me that ain’t couldn’t be a word because it wasn’t in the (school) dictionary […]

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OED appeals image

The OED needs you: can you find earlier evidence of these First World War words?

To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help. Our first quotations are often […]

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A day in the life of an OED researcher

library

As the New York researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary, I’ve been hailed as a hero (hipster poets love me), gotten the rock star reception (by research librarians), and been dismissed with derision, thought possibly to be deranged – this by college classmates at a recent reunion: rock-ribbed Wall Street sorts, who haven’t yet heeded […]

Henry Bradley: ‘sméaþoncol mon’

Henry Bradley

In the second instalment of an ongoing series on some of the Oxford English Dictionary’s editors, following on from an article about James Murray, Peter Gilliver looks at the life, work, and legacy of Henry Bradley. An obituary is often the place where people first really find out about a person. In the case of Henry Bradley, the […]

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