Tag: Oxford English Dictionary

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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toilet

How we stopped wearing toilets and started using them

It’s a fascinating fact of linguistic history that some words hardly change their main meaning or develop new meanings, while other words swing Tarzan-like from one semantic treetop to another leaving their past completely behind. One such word is toilet. ‘A kind of Toilet on their Heads’ As you might expect of a word derived […]

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bestie-friends

OED quarterly update: March 2014

The latest update to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) saw our team of lexicographers continue their revision of the dictionary, which involves adding new words and phrases, as well as updating existing entries. If you’re interested in why we’re revising the OED and the work it entails, you can find out more here. This quarter’s […]

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Map

Borrowed words in English: tracing the changing patterns

In Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English I examine how words borrowed from different languages have influenced English throughout its history. The above feature summarizes some of the main data from the book, focussing on the fourteen sources that have given the most words to English, as reflected by the new and revised […]

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