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10 questions for Ammon Shea

On Tuesday 5 August 2014, Ammon Shea, author of Reading the OED and Bad English, leads a discussion on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading series Word for Word Book Club.

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” :) when you say that, pardner” – the tweet police are watching

By Dennis Baron
Last Spring the New York Times reported that more and more grammar vigilantes are showing up on Twitter to police the typos and grammar mistakes that they find on users’ tweets. According to the Times, the tweet police “see themselves as the guardians of an emerging behavior code: Twetiquette,” and some of them go so far as to write algorithms that seek out tweets gone wrong (John Metcalfe, “The Self-Appointed Twitter Scolds,” April 28, 2010).

Twitter users post “tweets,” short messages no longer than 140 characters (spaces included). That length restriction can lead to beautifully-crafted, allusive, high-compression tweets where every word counts, a sort of digital haiku. But most tweets are not art. Instead, most users use Twitter to tell friends what they’re up to, send notes, and make offhand comments, so they squeeze as much text as possible into that limited space by resorting to abbreviations, acronyms, symbols, and numbers for letters, the kind of shorthand also found, and often criticized, in texting on a mobile phone.

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“Refudiate” Didn’t Start with Sarah Palin

By Ammon Shea

Every year, a group of people at OUP USA put our heads together and come up with a Word of the Year. This is an example of a word (or expression) that we feel has attracted a great deal of new interest in the year to date. It need not have been coined within the past twelve months (although it generally is a new word). It does not have to be a word that will stick around for a good length of time (it is very difficult to accurately predict which new words will have staying power). It does not even have to be a word that we plan on introducing into the dictionary (at least, not unless it seems fairly certain that it will stick around for a while).

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