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

Facebook: a language

Facebook: a language

Today is Mark Zuckerberg’s 29th birthday – yes, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook is still under thirty. Facebook turned nine this February, which is surprisingly young given its influence upon the English language. It is my part-time addiction to Facebook, and not, I hasten to add, my degree in English, that has qualified me […]

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Feelin’ “aight”?

Feelin' "aight"?

In the early 90s hip-hop artist Doug E. Fresh released a single called “I-Ight (Alright)”. The song wasn’t what you’d call a smash hit, but I mention it today because the editors of the OED have just put its namesake aight into the dictionary. Looking at the entry, it seems that Mr. Fresh was a bit of a lexical trail-blazer in […]

Relatively speaking: an untangling of that/who/which

Relatively speaking: an untangling of that/who/which

I have a twofold career: as well as writing blogs about grammar and usage, I also teach English as a foreign language. Explaining the more arcane and sometimes illogical nuances of English grammar to native and non-native speakers alike can be challenging, but I relish the chance to do so. I’ve found that some people […]

Why is something that is the very best known as ‘the bee’s knees’?

The bee's knees

This curious expression is one of many similar sayings for something that is the acme of excellence. We are all familiar with the cat’s whiskers (or the cat’s pyjamas, the cat’s meow, and the cat’s nuts), which originated in the roaring 1920s and which might well have been the first of its kind—it is said […]

Takei-tastic word-shenaniganza

Takei-tastic word-shenaniganza

The actor George Takei, hailed as a social media superstar, recently invited his fans to invent new words and submit them to him with their proposed definitions. Here at Oxford Dictionaries we’re always monitoring new words and meanings for inclusion in our dictionaries: once a word or phrase has gained enough traction, and we’ve recorded […]

Grisly bears and grizzly murders?

Grisly bears and grizzly murders?

Most of us would agree that English spelling can be a minefield: one reason for this is that there are numerous words which sound the same when you say or hear them but which are spelled differently and which have completely different meanings: a few examples are pour/pore, flower/flour, and sight/site. Such words are known […]

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

“Does ‘all of’ have any legit uses?” A reflection by David Foster Wallace from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

Other than as an ironic idiom for ‘no more than’ (e.g., sex with Edgar lasts all of twenty seconds), does all of have any legit uses? The answer is a qualified, complicated, and personally embarrassed yes. Here’s the story. An irksome habit of many student writers is to just automatically stick an of between all […]

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Meddling with nouns: who’s medalling now?

Meddling with nouns: who’s medalling now?

In the last fortnight, the Oxford English Dictionary saw a massive spike in searches for the verb ‘medal’.  Searches for ‘medal’ on our free Oxford Dictionaries Online site also increased dramatically at the end of July and have remained high for two weeks. While we at Oxford Dictionaries couldn’t possibly comment on the reason for […]

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