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Oh, what lark!

By Anatoly Liberman
For some time I have fought a trench war, trying to prove that fowl and fly are not connected. The pictures of an emu and an ostrich appended to the original post were expected to clinch the argument, but nothing worked. A few days ago, I saw a rafter of turkeys strutting leisurely along a busy street. Passersby were looking on with amused glee while drivers honked. The birds (clearly, “fowl”) crossed the road without showing the slightest signs of excitement.

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Mars: A lexicographer’s perspective

By Richard Holden
The planet Mars might initially seem an odd choice for Place of the Year. It has hardly any atmosphere and is more or less geologically inactive, meaning that it has remained essentially unchanged for millions of years. 2012 isn’t much different from one million BC as far as Mars is concerned. However, here on Earth, 2012 has been a notable year for the Red Planet.

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Celebrating Scotland: St Andrew’s Day

St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, is rather a mysterious figure; very little is actually known about his life. Meanwhile, St Andrew’s Day, on 30th November, is well-established and widely celebrated by Scots around the world. The bestselling Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and the Little Oxford Dictionary of Quotations include quotes from a wide-range of people, on an even wider-range of subjects. Here are some contributions from some of Scotland’s most treasured wordsmiths.

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Monthly etymology gleanings for November 2012

By Anatoly Liberman
It has been a tempestuous month in the world but a quiet one in the department of English etymology. Both the comments and the questions I received dealt with separate words, and there have been not too many of them.
Lollygag. In July 2007 I already wrote what I thought about this word. Although most people, at least in America, say lollygag, its doublet lallygag is well-known. The variation is typical.

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Words we’re thankful for

Here on the OxfordWords blog we’re constantly awed and impressed by the breadth and depth of the English language. As this is a great week to be appreciative, we’ve asked some fellow language-lovers which word they’re most thankful for. From quark to quotidian, ych a fi to robot, here’s what they said:

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Shakespearean passions around ‘bullyragging’

By Anatoly Liberman
After writing a post on bully, I decided to turn my attention to bullyrag, noun and verb, both branded as obscure. The verb has been attested in several forms, but only ballarag is of some interest. Ballywrag is a fanciful spelling of ballarag, while bullrag contains the familiar two elements without a connecting vowel.

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Seven words that gained fame on TV shows

Television shows have a huge influence on popular culture, and so it is not surprising that many words and phrases have come into common usage through the medium of television. Here are a few of our favourite words and phrases that were popularized through iconic TV shows.

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Five GIFers for the serious-minded

By Alice Northover
When people think of GIFs, they often imagine a silly animation for a quick joke. But like any medium, it has potential beyond our cat-centric imagination. “The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace,” Head of US Dictionaries, Katherine Martin, recently commented. So it’s only appropriate to highlight a few GIFers who take the file format beyond a basic form.

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Six WOTY confusables about GIF

There has also been some widespread confusion on a few things relating to GIF’s selection as Word of the Year [USA], so we thought it would be helpful to give a little roundup for clarification.
(1) Oxford Dictionaries USA and The New Oxford American Dictionary (and Oxford Dictionaries UK and Oxford Dictionary of English) are not the Oxford English Dictionary. OUP publishes many dictionaries and the OED is only one of them.

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A lovable bully

By Anatoly Liberman
Bullying is a hot topic. Strict laws have been passed with the view of intimidating the intimidators or at least keeping them at bay. Regardless of the consequences such measures may have, linguists cannot ignore the problem and keep out of the public eye. So to arms, comrades! That a word like bully should vex etymologists needn’t surprise anybody.

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To gif or not to gif

To gif, or not to gif–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of crude animation
Or to take arms against a sea of static
And by opposing end them.

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How we decide Word of the Year [GIFed]

By Alice Northover
Many people are curious about the process behind the selection of Word of the Year and I thought it would be appropriate to express this in gif form. Here’s my completely biased perspective as blog editor on my first Word of the Year committee.

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Ten variations of ‘omnishambles’

By Alice Northover
Part of the strength of new words is their flexibility — that they can grow, change, and adapt. This elasticity helps cement their place in our language, rather than a brief life in slang. So to present omnishambles’s impact more fully, I’ve rounded up five variations upon it and proposed five additions of my own.

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Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 2012: ‘omnishambles’

By Fiona McPherson
A common misconception about the work of a lexicographer is that we sit around in the manner of a cabal each week and argue about what words to include or reject. The fantasy is that we each suggest a word or two and then, after a heated debate, vote, with the result that some words emerge victorious and begin the journey to the dictionary page, while those that are blackballed are consigned to lexical oblivion. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Oxford Dictionaries USA Word of the Year 2012: ‘to GIF’

By Katherine Martin
The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier. GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.

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