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Hamilton’s descendants

Inspired by the 11 Tony awards won by the smash Broadway hit Hamilton, last month I wrote about Alexander Hamilton as the father of the US national debt and discussed the huge benefit the United States derives from having paid its debts promptly for more than two hundred years. Despite that post, no complementary tickets to Hamilton have arrived in my mailbox. And so this month, I will discuss Hamilton’s role as the founding father of American central banking.

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Exotic – Episode 38 – The Oxford Comment

The word “exotic” can take on various different meanings and connotations, depending on how it is used. It can serve as an adjective or a noun, to describe a commodity, a person, or even a human activity. No matter its usage, however, the underlying theme is that the word is used to describe something foreign or unknown, a function which can vary greatly, from enriching the luxury status of commodities, to fully sexualizing and ultimately ostracizing a literary work of psychology and anthropology, known as the Kamasutra.

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Poverty: a reading list

Poverty can be defined by ‘the condition of having little or no wealth or few material possessions; indigence, destitution’ and is a growing area within development studies. In time for The Development Studies Association annual conference taking place in Oxford this year in September, we have put together this reading list of key books on poverty, including a variety of online and journal resources on topics ranging from poverty reduction and inequality, to economic development and policy.

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Sartor resartus, or some thoughts on the origin of the word “cloth” and the history of clothes

I keep clawing at the bars of the cage I built for myself. But first a digression. Walter W. Skeat wrote numerous notes on English etymology, some of which he eventually put together and published in book form. Much to my regret, not too many kl-words attracted his attention. But I was amused to discover that the verb clop means not only the sound made by shoes or hoofs but also “to cling, adhere to.”

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Let’s tank tanking

“Tanking,” or deliberately trying to lose an athletic contest to gain a future competitive advantage, such as earning higher draft pick of prospective players, became the talk of the town or at least of many fans, in many US cities saddled with losing teams in such sports as hockey, basketball, and baseball. If actually practiced, however, tanking would exploit spectator, players, and coaches alike.

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Clouds with and without a silver lining

Engl. cloud belongs so obviously with clod and its kin that there might not even be a question­­­­ of its origin (just one more lump), but for the first recorded sense of clūd in Old English, which was “rock, cliff.”

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The profanity of disease

Over spring break, I spent a day in Tombstone, Arizona. This is the town where, if you don’t know the story, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, accompanied by their friend Doc Holliday, had a shootout with a group of cattle rustlers at the OK Corral. Though the Earp brothers wore the badges, when the tale is told the hero is usually Doc Holliday—noted gambler, crack shot, prodigious drinker

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James Madison and Tiberius Gracchus on representative government

In Federalist 63, Madison pointed out that the principle of representation was not exclusive to modern republics. In the Roman Republic, Madison thought, the Tribunes of the plebs were “annually elected by the whole body of the people, and considered the representatives of the people, almost in their plenipotentiary capacity.” Representation was not unknown to the ancients.

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Not a dog’s chance, or one more impenetrable etymology

By this time, the thrust of the posts united by the title “Not a dog’s chance” must be clear. While dealing with some animal names, we plod through a swamp (or a bog, or a quagmire) and run into numerous monosyllabic words of varying structure (both vowels and consonants alternate in them), lacking a clear etymology, and designating several creatures, sometimes having nothing to do with one another (for instance, “doe” and “grasshopper,” though this is an extreme case).

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5 reasons why a library is the best place to hide during a Zombie Apocalypse

May is known as International Zombie Awareness Month. After witnessing many poor comrades lose their lives in Hollywood zombie uprisings, we’ve decided that we need to prepare for any eventuality. Suppose the living dead do come calling, where is the best place to hide, and, as Simon Pegg hopes, “wait for the whole thing to blow over”? There is but one option, a library. Here’s five reasons why.

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Not a dog’s chance, or one more impenetrable etymology

Unlike tyke, bitch can boast of respectable ancestors, because its Old English form (bicce) has been recorded. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology notes that bicce is obscurely related to Old Icelandic bikkja (the same meaning). The OED online never uses the phrase obscurely related, and this is a good thing, for this verbal formula, which so often occurred in the past, is itself obscure.

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Ten things you didn’t know about Argentine tango music

Tango is a multidimensional art form including music, dance and poetry. It grew out of the confluence of cultures in the Río de la Plata region in South America and has since had over a century-long history. Here are ten things that you might not know about Argentine tango music.

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How brothers became buddies and bros

The Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) latest update includes more than 1,800 fully revised entries, including the entry for brother and many words relating to it. During the revision process, entries undergo new research, and evidence is analyzed to determine whether additional meanings and formations are needed.

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Etymology gleanings for March 2016

Preparation for the Spelling Congress is underway. The more people will send in their proposals, the better. On the other hand (or so it seems to me), the fewer people participate in this event and the less it costs in terms of labor/labour and money, the more successful it will turn out to be. The fate of English spelling has been discussed in passionate terms since at least the 1840s.

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Bosom friends, bosom serpents, and breast pockets

Last week I mentioned my “strong suspicion” that bosom has the same root (“to inflate”) as the verb boast. As a matter of fact, it was a conviction, not a suspicion, but I did not want to show my cards too early. Before plunging into matters etymological, perhaps something should be said about the word’s bizarre spelling.

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