Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The year in words: 2013

By Katherine Connor Martin
Oxford’s lexicographers use the Oxford English Corpus (OEC), a 2-billion-word corpus of contemporary English usage gathered since 2000, to provide accurate descriptions of how English is used around the world in real life. A corpus is simply a collection of texts that are richly tagged so that they can be analyzed using software (we use the Sketch Engine).

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Edwin Battistella’s words

By Edwin Battistella
The annual Word of the Year selection by Oxford Dictionaries and others inspired me to an odd personal challenge last year. In November of 2011, about the time that Oxford Dictionaries were settling on squeezed middle as both the UK and US word of the year, I made a New Year’s Resolution for 2012.

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Words of 2012 round-up

By Alice Northover
While most people are getting excited for the start of awards season on Sunday with the Golden Globes, the season has just ended for word nerds. From November through January, the Word(s) of the Year announcements are made. I’ll let you decide who is the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAGs, National Film Critics Circle, etc. of the lexicography community. Just remember YOLO — because it appeared on every list.

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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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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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OUP UK 2010 Word of the Year: Big Society

By Susie Dent
Our final choice for the word of 2010, the coalition’s new dream of the big society, is no less a mirror of the times, in this case of the extraordinary political events of the year. The term’s success within a short period of time has been impressive, underscored by the ease with which it is now played upon: when the new PM visited China, both the Times and the Guardian headlined his challenge as ‘Cameron confronts the biggest society’.

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