Tag: OED

Words invented for existing concepts to distinguish them from something new are known as retronyms.

What are retronyms, and why do they exist?

One way that language changes is the coinage of terms to describe new versions of existing concepts or inventions, for example the compound electric guitar to differentiate the new invention from the existing type of guitar. However, with electric guitars becoming increasingly widespread, the word guitar no longer unambiguously described one that could be played […]

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Among the slips of paper Arthur Maling used for his work on the letter W are the wrappers for at least five different varieties of chocolate.

Esperanto, chocolate, and biplanes in Braille: the interests of Arthur Maling

The Oxford English Dictionary is the work of people: many thousands of them. In my work on the history of the Dictionary I have found the stories of many of those people endlessly fascinating. Very often an individual will enter the story who cries out to be made the subject of a biography in his […]

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Now a pronunciation editor, Matthew Moreland had the pleasure of being one of OED’s speakers periodically for a couple of years.

You can say that again! A day in the life of an Actor-Phonetician

At the end of last year, a mammoth update meant that OED subscribers can hear words spoken aloud for the first time, in both British and American accents. Little triangles  have appeared next to the transcriptions, and can be clicked to hear the word. It’s now quicker and easier than ever before to find out […]

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It has been claimed that 52 percent of words in use aren’t included in dictionaries – is this true? Elyse Graham investigates how this figure arose, and suggests why it’s not quite right.

Are 52% of words really not included in dictionaries?

In 2011, a remarkable article appeared in the journal Science that argued, based on a computational analysis of five million books, that “52 percent of the English lexicon—the majority of the words used in English books—consists of lexical ‘dark matter’ undocumented in standard references”. Taken at face value, this might seem like an astonishing claim. Fifty-two […]

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Some words unique to Singapore have recently been included in the OED.

5 great words from Singapore English (now in the OED)

As an OED editor working mostly on words coming from world varieties of English, I am always fascinated by the research that goes into every dictionary entry, and what it tells me about the culture and history of English-speaking communities in different parts of the globe. Every once in a while, I also get the […]

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An Arnold Palmer is a refreshing, summery drink made by mixing equal parts iced tea and lemonade and named for the American professional golfer Arnold Palmer.

OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of ‘Arnold Palmer’?

Can you help us? OED Appeals is a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English. Part of the process of revising words and phrases for the OED involves searching for evidence of a word’s first recorded use in English, […]

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corpus misspellings

Top ten misspelled words in our corpus

For many students of English, and some native speakers as well, English spelling can be confusing given all the idiosyncrasies and apparent inconsistencies that make up the written language. As Ian Brookes has argued in a previous blog post, the difficulties partly arise from the fact that the spellings of English words reflect their origins […]

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To date, region-specific pronunciations for words from 10 varieties of English have been added to the OED, namely Scottish, Irish, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Caribbean, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysian, and Philippine English.

Shibboleth, Sibboleth: pronouncing international Englishes

‘Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right’ says Judges 12:6 of the King James Bible. The word Shibboleth was adopted more broadly to refer to language which can be used to identify those who belong (or rather, do not belong) to […]

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