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

Tag: OED

Mumbo-jumbo and plocking: Vita Sackville-West in the OED

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On 9 March 2013, Vita Sackville-West would have been 121 years old. By birth she was a Victorian, but she spent her life railing against the stifling conventions of her parents’ generation. She and her husband Harold Nicolson enjoyed a famously open marriage; one of Vita Sackville-West’s many lovers was the novelist Virginia Woolf, who […]

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Genes and genetics: the language of scientific discovery

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It is sometimes the case that a scientific field experiences such dramatic progress that the rate at which new discoveries are made outpaces the language needed to describe them. How would it be if there were no words to describe the results of your latest experiment or the structures you see using your new microscope? […]

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What the Nobel laureates did for us

What the Nobel laureates did for us

19 February isn’t a great day, should you happen to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chances are, you might meet your maker – Nobel laureates André Gide and Knut Hamsun both died on 19 February, in 1951 and 1952 respectively. And that’s before we widen the net to other Nobel Prizes (step forward […]

Word stories: ‘rum’

Word stories: 'rum'

The word rum is first recorded in 1654 in the Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, where it is mentioned along with another of its names kill-devil: Berbados Liquors, commonly called Rum, Kill Deuill, or the like. The word itself is of obscure origin, being somehow related to rumbullion and rumbustion, words whose origins […]

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From ‘carbonation’ to ‘navy blue’: which words came to life 200 years ago?

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If the dawning of the New Year invariably brings you to brood upon the inexorable march of time, you find yourself in good company. Here at the Oxford English Dictionary, we are very aware of how what society does—and even how society thinks—is much informed by the movement from past to present, and onward into […]

Don’t bank on it. . .

Don't bank on it. . .

With just over a week to go until Christmas, many of us are no doubt looking forward to the holidays and a few days off work. For those working on the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, however, writing the history of the language sometimes took precedence over a Christmas break. Christmas leave in […]

By Jove! The language of P.G. Wodehouse

The language of P.G. Wodehouse

My dad introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse when I was a teenager. Not for a moment did it occur to him that a 14-year-old girl whose first language was Afrikaans and who had never left the African continent might not find immediate resonance with Bertie Wooster, Lord Ickenham, Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps, Gussie Fink-Nottle, and co., or […]

A heap of broken images: the varied voices of T. S. Eliot

A heap of broken images: the varied voices of T.S. Eliot

Today, September 26th, is the 124th anniversary of the birth of the poet, playwright, and critic T. S. Eliot. Apart from being one of the twentieth century’s most important writers, Eliot is, more importantly, one of my top-five favourite poets of all time. He is a poet of language, a poet of many voices, and today […]

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