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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The victory of “misgender” – why it’s not a bad word

Misunderstand. Misidentify. Mistaken. Misogyny. Miscegenation. Miscreant. Misadventure. Misalign. The list goes on and on. A two-second search turned up a long list of words beginning with the prefix ‘mis.’ None seem very positive. Now we have a new word to add to the lexicon: misgender.

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The Yablo Paradox

Why study paradoxes?

Why study paradoxes? The easiest way to answer this question is with a story: In 2002 I was attending a conference on self-reference in Copenhagen, Denmark. During one of the breaks I got a chance to chat with Raymond Smullyan, who is amongst other things an accomplished magician, a distinguished mathematical logician, and perhaps the most well-known popularizer of `Knight and Knave’ (K&K) puzzles.

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

A wrapping rhapsody

The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (ODEE) says about the verb wrap (with the abbreviations expanded): “…of unknown origin, similar in form and sense are North Frisian wrappe stop up, Danish dialectal vrappe stuff; and cf. Middle Engl. bewrappe, beside wlappe (XIV), LAP3.”

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McWhorter The Language Hoax

How does color affect our way of seeing the world?

There is a study of color perception that has gotten around enough that I would like to devote this post to how I see it, according to my take on whether, and how, language “shapes” thought and creates a “worldview.” The experiment involved the Himba people, and is deliciously tempting for those seeking to show how language creates a way of seeing the world.

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Why learn Arabic?

To celebrate the launch of our new Oxford Arabic Dictionary (in print and online), the Chief Editor, Tressy Arts, explains why she decided to become an Arabist…When I tell people I’m an Arabist, they often look at me like they’re waiting for the punchline. Some confuse it with aerobics and look at me dubiously [...]

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

Doing things with verve

It occurred to me to write a short essay about the word verve by chance. As a general rule, I try to stick to my last and stay away from Romance etymology, even though the logic of research occasionally makes me meddle with it.

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Oxford Dictionaries

Translating untranslatable words

For most language learners and lovers, translation is a hot topic. Should I translate new vocabulary into my first language? How can I say x in Japanese? Is this translated novel as good as the original? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that Pushkin isn’t Pushkin unless he’s read in Russian.

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Reading demeanor in the courtroom

When it comes to assessing someone’s sincerity, we pay close attention to what people say and how they say it. This is because the emotion-based elements of communication are understood as partially controllable and partially uncontrollable.

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New words, new dialogues

It’s beautiful, our English language — fluid and expressive, colorful and lively. And it’s changeable. New words appear all the time. Consider “selfie” (a noun), “problematical” (an adjective), and “Google” (a noun that turned into verbs.) Now we have two more: “anti-vax” and “anti-vaxxer.”

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The history of the word “qualm”

Once John Cowan suggested that I touch on the murky history of the noun qualm and try to shed light on it. To the extent that I can trust my database, this word, which is, naturally, featured in all dictionaries, hardly ever appears in the special scholarly literature.

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Quebec French and the question of identity

The French language came to North America with the first French settlers in the 17th century. French and British forces had long been at war before the final victory of Britain in the mid 18th century; after the loss of New France, France lost contact with its settlers and Quebec French became isolated from European French.

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There are more ways than one to be thunderstruck

By Anatoly Liberman
On 20 November 2013, I discussed the verbs astonish, astound, and stun. Whatever the value of that discussion, it had a truly wonderful picture of a stunned cat and an ironic comment by Peter Maher on the use of the word stunning.

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Children learning English: an educational revolution

By Fiona Copland and Sue Garton
Did you know that the introduction of languages into primary schools has been dubbed the world’s biggest development in education? And, of course, overwhelmingly, the language taught is English. Already the world’s most popular second language, the desire for English continues apace, at least in the short term, and with this desire has come a rapid decrease in the age at which early language learning (ELL) starts.

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Why metaphor matters

Plato famously said that there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry. But with respect to one aspect of poetry, namely metaphor, many contemporary philosophers have made peace with the poets. In their view, we need metaphor. Without it, many truths would be inexpressible and unknowable.

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