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Celebrating Victoria Day

Monday, 19 May is Victoria Day in Canada, which celebrates the 195th birthday of Queen Victoria on 24 May 1819. On 20 June 1837, at the age of 18, Queen Victoria took the throne as Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as the Empire was called at that point.

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Are we there yet?

By Elizabeth Knowles
Dictionary projects can famously, and sometimes fatally, overrun. In the nineteenth century especially, dictionaries for the more recondite foreign languages of past and present (from Coptic to Sanskrit) were compiled by independent scholars, enthusiasts who were ready to dedicate their lives to a particular project.

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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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Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday, falling on 11th November in 2012 and traditionally observed on the Sunday closest to this date, marks the anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the First World War. It serves as a day to reflect upon those who have given their lives for the sake of peace and freedom. We have selected a number of memorable, meaningful and moving quotes to commemorate the fallen.

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‘If you want anything said, ask Mrs Thatcher’

By Susan Ratcliffe
In May 1979 the United Kingdom elected its first female Prime Minister, in spite of her own comment ten years earlier: ‘No woman in my time will be Prime Minister or Chancellor or Foreign Secretary—not the top jobs. Anyway I wouldn’t want to be Prime Minister. You have to give yourself 100%’. A few years later, having become Prime Minister (although she didn’t want the job?) Margaret Thatcher went on to say ‘In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman’. In fact, the things she said were so memorable that she has become one of the most quoted politicians of modern times. Everyone recognizes ‘there is no real alternative’, ‘the lady’s not for turning’, ‘the Falklands Factor’, ‘Rejoice, rejoice!’, ‘Victorian values’, ‘We can do business together’, and ‘There is no such thing as Society’.

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Murder most foul?

By Elizabeth Knowles
David Bevington’s Murder Most Foul: Hamlet Through the Ages gives an engrossing account of Hamlet through the centuries, with delightful glimpses of great theatrical moments, and actors, of the past. We learn of the tragic actor John Philip Kemble that his Hamlet took twenty minutes longer than anyone else’s because of the pauses he inserted for emphasis (Bevington tells us that the wit and writer Richard Brinsley Sheridan suggested filling up the intervals with music).

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Words, words, words

By Elizabeth Knowles
‘Is it in the dictionary?’ is a formulation suggesting that there is a single lexical authority: ‘The Dictionary’. As the British academic Rosamund Moon has commented, ‘The dictionary most cited in such cases is the UAD: the Unidentified Authorizing Dictionary, usually referred to as “the dictionary”, but very occasionally as “my dictionary”.’ The American scholar John Algeo has coined the term lexicographicolatry for a reverence for dictionary authority amounting to idolatry. As he explained:

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One Minute Word Histories

Historical lexicographer Elizabeth Knowles introduces her new book, How to Read a Word, which aims to introduce anyone with an interest in language to the pleasures of researching word histories. Yesterday I brought you an interview filmed by George Miller of Podularity, in which she suggested some ways to get started with word research. In the following three videos, Elizabeth gives us three one minute word histories.

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Researching Words

Historical lexicographer Elizabeth Knowles introduces her new book, How to Read a Word, which aims to introduce anyone with an interest in language to the pleasures of researching word histories. In this interview filmed by George Miller of Podularity in the library here at Oxford University Press in the UK she suggests some resources and techniques to get you started.

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How to Read a Word

By Elizabeth Knowles
When I began working for Oxford Dictionaries over thirty years ago, it was as a library researcher for the Supplement to OED. Volume 3, O–Scz, was then in preparation, and the key part of my job was to find earlier examples of the words and phrases for which entries were being written. Armed with a degree in English (Old Norse and Old English a speciality) and a diploma in librarianship, I was one of a group of privileged people given access to the closed stacks of the Bodleian Library.

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