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

Tag: Oxford English Dictionary

cows in the oed

The peculiar history of cows in the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has hundreds of words that relate to cows. For most English speakers, the idea that anyone would need so many words for one specific animal probably seems absurd. Especially cows. Perhaps it’s their mysterious ubiquity throughout children’s books and TV shows or just the dull empty look in their eyes, […]

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Thackeray word cloud2

Snobs and brain cracks: Thackeray in the OED

William Makepeace Thackeray was born on 18 July 1811, and before his death just over fifty years later he had written over thirty-five works. These include Catherine (1839-40), Pendennis (1848-50), and The Book of Snobs (1848) – the last of which popularized (and is currently the earliest known evidence for) the sense of snob as ‘a person who admires […]

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Mountain Bluebird

Twitter and the Oxford English Dictionary

Although Twitter (maximum 140 characters) and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (over 350 million characters) may seem like strange bedfellows, the former has recently become an integral part of the latter: for the first time, the OED has included individual Twitter posts as part of its quotation evidence. Twitter as historical evidence In recent OED […]

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Beech

When is a book a tree?

The obvious answer to ‘when is a book a tree?’ is ‘before it’s been made into a book’ – it doesn’t take a scientist to know that (most) paper comes from trees – but things get more complex when we turn our attention to etymology. The word book itself has changed very little over the […]

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19th century engraving of a platypus

Ask a lexicographer: part 4

Every now and again, we like to share a few of the very interesting questions sent to us by users of Oxford Dictionaries. Read how our lexicographers tackle questions about British and American English usage and the written treatment of foreign words. What is the plural of platypus? Is it platypodes? Platypodes is one possibility […]

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Wild West

From cottage-garden to Wild West: Charlotte Brontë and the OED

Charlotte Brontë is renowned around the world for her 1847 novel Jane Eyre. With an intelligent and impassioned heroine, a handsome and ruthless hero, and (spoiler alert) something unexpected in the attic, the book has captured the imagination of readers for generation after generation. Less widely known, but still much-loved by many readers, are her […]

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April Fool's Day

True or false? An April Fool’s Day OED quiz

April Fool’s Day, also called All Fool’s Day, has been celebrated for centuries, but its origins are unknown. Although there are different customs all over the world to mark the day, the central theme is to play jokes or pranks. We’re not usually in the business of fooling our readers, but that doesn’t mean we […]

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New York library

More tales from an OED researcher

More notes from the field, courtesy of your New York researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Tell people you work for the OED, and they seem to think that you have some mystical authority over the use (or misuse) of the language. (I especially like the random Twitter questions – adjudicating biographies, passing muster […]

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