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

Tag: OED

robot

A closer look at hi-fi, sci-fi, DIY

Hi-fi, sci-fi, DIY. Three expressions which, for me, typify the late lamented twentieth century. Do-it-yourself The concept of do-it-yourself is the earliest of the three. Not surprisingly, the phrase is first recorded, as an adjective, in the United States in 1910: ‘the “do-it-yourself” method’, redolent of the struggle for self-improvement and self-reliance of that era. A series of ‘Do […]

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alphabet

How many pangrams are there in the OED?

A pangram is a sentence containing all 26 letters of the alphabet at least once. The canonical example in English is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, which is clearly contrived to be pangrammatic. But pangrams can also occur accidentally. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) contains 66 pangrammatic quotations. Two […]

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Chicken or egg

Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

There are two famous riddles about chickens. One investigates the reasoning behind the chicken’s desire to cross the road (“to get to the other side”), while the other poses the ontological quandary: “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” We shan’t attempt to answer the question in a philosophical or biological manner, but we […]

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Happy faces

Smiles for World Smile Day

You may be familiar with that old joke: what is the longest word in the English language? Smiles – there is a mile between s and s! Well, those of us in the know would cite the supposed lung disease pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis as the longest word in English, and that certainly isn’t something to smile about. […]

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Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things

Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things

In Words in Time and Place, David Crystal explores fifteen fascinating sets of synonyms, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. We’ve turned selections from six sections of Words in Time and Place into word clouds, arranged in a shape related to the topic in question. Take a look at the images below to see […]

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clever

Feeling bright? 8 historical synonyms for ‘clever’

If you’re constantly top of the class, or you fancy your chances playing a trivia game, you’ve probably been called clever at some point, if only by yourself. Well, to show how clever you are, why not explore our list of historical synonyms for clever, taken from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary? […]

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buckets

Quiz: how well do you know historical synonyms?

David Crystal’s Words in Time and Place (published today by OUP) uses the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary to explore the history of fifteen fascinating sets of words: synonyms for dying, the nose, and being drunk; meals, privies, and fools, and more. See how well you know historical synonyms, and the times and places […]

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dog chewing

From chavel to mumble: 10 unusual synonyms for ‘chew’

Do you manducate? Do you chavel? The chances are the answer is ‘yes’ to both these questions; they are both synonyms for chew. Taking a look in the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, we’ve come up with 10 unusual words you can use in place of chew next time you’re chomping on your […]

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