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Season’s greetings – Episode 29 – The Oxford Comment

Say goodbye to endless stuffing: it’s time to welcome our most beloved season of wreaths, wrapping paper…and confusion. The questions, as we began delving, were endless. Should we say happy holidays or season’s greetings?

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You’ll be a man, my son. Part 3

Obviously, I would not have embarked on such a long manhunt if I did not have my idea on the origin of the troublesome word. It will probably end up in the dustbin (also known as ash heap) of etymology, but there it will come to rest in good company.

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Oxford Dictionaries

Analysing what Shakespeare has to say about gender

Humans are very good at reading from start to finish and collecting lots of information to understand the aggregated story a text tells, but they are very bad at keeping track of the details of language in use across many texts.

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Etymology gleanings for November 2015

It is true that the etymology of homo confirms the biblical story of the creation of man, but I am not aware of any other word for “man” that is akin to the word for “earth.” Latin mas (long vowel, genitive maris; masculinus ends in two suffixes), whose traces we have in Engl. masculine and marital and whose reflex, via French, is Engl. male, referred to “male,” not to “man.”

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The meaning of “terrorism”

Anyone who saw the terror on the faces of the people fleeing the attacks in Paris last week will agree that terrorism is the right word to describe the barbaric suicide bombings and the shooting of civilians that awful Friday night. The term terrorism, though once rare, has become tragically common in the twenty-first century.

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Emojis and ambiguity in the digital medium

The selection of the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji by Oxford Dictionaries as its Word of the Year recognises the huge increase in the use of these digital pictograms in electronic communication. While 2015 may have witnessed their proliferation, emoji are not new. They were originally developed in Japan in the 1990s for use by teenagers on their pagers; the word emoji derives from the Japanese e ‘picture’ + moji ‘character, letter’.

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Katy Perry vs. William Shakespeare: Grammar showdown

Why is Katy Perry’s song title “I Kissed a Girl” grammatically correct? Which famous playwright frequently mixed up “who” vs. “whom?” Are students as terrible at using modern grammar as they think they are? We sat down with author and grammarian, Stephen Spector, to learn more about the history of English grammar and how we can get better at using it.

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Oxford Dictionaries

The AUTO- age

How readily someone may be understood when using a new word will depend on several factors: the intuitable transparency of meaning, its clarity in context, the receptiveness of the audience, and so on.

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How to solve an anagram

Many word games—Scrabble, Words with Friends, Scribbage, Quiddler and more, involve anagrams, or unscrambling letters to make a word. This month, we take a look at how to do that unscrambling, so here is an anagram for you to solve: naitp.

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What defines good writing?

What distinguishes good writing from bad writing? How can people transform their writing to make it more powerful and more effective? Are universities teaching students how to become better writers? In order to answer these questions and others, we sat down with Geoffrey Huck, an associate professor of the Professional Writing Program at York University.

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Oxford Dictionaries

George Orwell and the origin of the term ‘cold war’

On 19 October 1945, George Orwell used the term cold war in his essay “You and the Atom Bomb,” speculating on the repercussions of the atomic age which had begun two months before when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

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Words from books

October is an important month for book festivals—in Boston, Austin, Madison, Baton Rouge, and of course Frankfurt, Germany, which hosts the world’s oldest book festival. In honor of book festivals, I want to delve a bit into the way that the language of books expanded the English vocabulary.

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Oxford Dictionaries

Do East and West Germans still speak a different language?

On 12 September 1990, about ten months after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the foreign ministers of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) met with their French, American, British, and Soviet counterparts in Moscow to sign the so-called Two-Plus-Four Treaty.

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Trick or treat – Episode 27 – The Oxford Comment

From baristas preparing pumpkin spiced lattes to grocery store aisles lined with bags of candy, the season has arrived for all things sweet-toothed and scary. Still, centuries after the holiday known as “Halloween” became cultural phenomenon, little is known to popular culture about its religious, artistic, and linguistic dimensions.

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Etymology gleanings for September 2015

It so happened that I have been “gleaning” the whole month, but today I’ll probably exhaust the questions received during the last weeks. From a letter: “I have been told Norwegians would say forth and back rather that back and forth since it was logical for them to envision going away, then coming back.”

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Breaking down barriers

Barriers, like promises and piecrust, are made to be broken. Or broken down, rather. Translators, like teachers, are great breakers-down of barriers, though, like them, they are almost always undervalued. This autumn our minds and our media are full of images of razor-wire fences as refugees, fleeing war zones, try to cross borders legally or illegally in search of a safe haven.

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