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

Tag: OED

Which Winston? Confusable names in the OED

Which Winston? Confusable names in the OED

Thomas Hardy was born on 22 May 1804. “But wait,” I hear you cry, clutching the Dictionary of National Biography to your chest, fanning yourself down with a copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge, clasping an edition of – no, sorry, you’ve run out of hands – “Thomas Hardy was born on 2 June 1840, […]

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Star Trek is one of the most successful science-fiction franchises of all time: since the original TV series first aired in 1966, there have been four further live-action TV shows (plus an animated series), twelve films, and innumerable books. Only Star Wars and (particularly for the British) Doctor Who have achieved a comparable level of […]

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Cricket and the Queen Mum: the OED’s Chief Editor discusses some fascinating words

John Simpson - Chief Editor OED

Yesterday it was announced that John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, will be retiring in October 2013. The full press release can be read on the OED website, and it seems an appropriate time to ask John Simpson to discuss some of the more fascinating words and expressions he has worked on: It’s hard […]

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Volcanoes in the OED

Volcanoes in the OED

Within the dictionary offices, we refer to the Oxford English Dictionary‘s recently revised and updated batch of words as the blue batch, as blue is the leading headword. Colour words are often big entries, involving many different subject areas. Here, we have natural history (bluebell, blueberry, and blue heron, to name but three), country music (bluegrass), fashion (or not) (blue jeans, blue […]

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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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