Tag: OED

film reel_large

Cult films in the OED

Cult films are slippery customers. One person’s cult film is another’s mainstream hit, and both would probably be prepared to fight to the death to defend their opinion. For some a film can only be described as ‘cult’ if just a handful of people have seen it. For others it is a film that did […]

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spices large

Salaries, dragons, and musk: rooting around in the spice rack

As the Bard said, “That time of year thou mayst in me behold” a pumpkin-spice latte–or beer, bubble gum, even burgers, such is the market. While we may have reached so-called “peak pumpkin” this year, the autumn season is indeed one of seasonings, of herbs and spices with the special power to evoke that cozy sense of home. From trade […]

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auger_words beginning with n

Apron, adder, and other words that used to begin with ‘n’…

The words app and nap might rhyme, but to say they sound exactly the same is quite clearly wrong. Well, it is quite clearly wrong until you precede them with the indefinite article. There is nothing (apart from context) to distinguish an app from a nap in spoken English, unless you rather take your time […]

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selfie

Selfie – one year on

There can be few people who don’t know that a selfie is a photograph that you take of yourself, typically with your smartphone. The Editors at Oxford Dictionaries started tracking the word back in April 2012, at which time it was noted that there were 36 examples on the newspaper database Nexis ‘mainly in reference to […]

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crying

Skrike, lachryme, and water-cart: the language of crying

Crying is one of the first things that any of us do in our lives. It tends to happen again at the most important moments in life – whether as a sign of happiness or sadness – and some of us find it’s an involuntary reaction to anything from pieces of music to absorbing stories. […]

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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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