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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Dictionaries, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 47
1. Calling all tonguesters: Refresh your gossip with old words

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Mark Peters, the genius behind the blog Wordlustitude in addition to being a Contributing Editor for Verbatim: The Language Quarterly, a language columnist for Babble, and a blogger for Psychology Today, is our guest blogger this week. Below Peters encourages us to make old words hip again.

Did you hear about the nude pictures of Lindsay Lohan and Roger Clemens drinking a human growth hormone/grain alcohol smoothie?

You have? Then let me tell you what my brother’s nanny has been up to with your father’s mechanic in the gazebo. (more…)

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2. Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Insipient v. Incipient

Insipient writers often throw in big words like insipient/incipient at incipient stages of their careers. Say that five times fast! To learn how to use these words properly keep reading.  If you liked this usage tip check out Garner’s Modern American Usage. To subscribe to his daily tips click here.

incipient; insipient.

The former means “beginning, in an initial stage”; the latter is an obsolete word meaning “unwise, foolish.” But “incipient” is often misspelled with an “-s-” — e.g.: (more…)

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3. Organlegging: Hold Onto Your Heart

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Jeff Prucher, editor of Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, has kindly guest blogged for us this week. Below, learn how science fiction has conceived of a crime, which has never been committed.

There have been a number of news reports in recent months that reveal a dark underside to the word of organ transplants. In one case, corpses were illegally purchased from funeral directors, and usable tissues were resold to be used in transplants. In another: (more…)

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4. Should “Decimate” be Annihilated?


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For the past few decades, Lake Superior State University has issued an annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.” Candidates for “banished words” are nominated by the public at large, and then a committee decides on the final selection, which is released every year on New Year’s Day. The 2008 list is a typical mix of terms deemed by the committee to be clichéd, improperly used, or objectionable in some other way, with a particular emphasis on management-speak, Internet lingo, and youth slang. Of course, the LSSU list is never effective in actually banning words — in fact, some words from years past have flourished quite successfully (“online” in 1996, “9-11” in 2002, “blog” in 2005). In general, the list is most informative as a barometer of pet peeves about language: what is it that gets under people’s skin, so much so that they think words (or particularly disliked senses of words) should be removed from the lexicon forthwith?

(more…)

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5. “Subprime” Ready for Prime Time


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The American Dialect Society has announced that the Word of the Year for 2007, as voted by members at its annual meeting, is subprime. It’s a sturdy choice, given how much media attention has circulated this past year about the financial crisis in the housing sector blamed on mortgage loans made to high-risk borrowers with credit ratings that are less than prime. Subprime (sometimes hyphenated as sub-prime) might not be as flashy as some previous selections by the ADS, such as truthiness in 2005 (comedian Stephen Colbert’s term for “truth from the gut” unencumbered by facts) or plutoed in 2006 (’demoted or devalued in the manner of Pluto losing planet status’). Nonetheless, the word has an intriguing history, even for people like me who aren’t terribly fascinated by the lending practices of banks.

(more…)

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6. “Primary” Colors


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Now that U.S. voters are deeply enmeshed in the presidential primary season, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word primary. (Or maybe it was last week’s column on subprime that primed the pump.) Primary and its colleague caucus are distinctly American political terms for the processes by which a party’s candidates are selected, and tracing the usage of these words offers a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of the nation’s electoral process.
(more…)

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7. “Big-Up” on the Rise

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As OUP lexicographers monitor the linguistic radar for new words and meanings, sometimes we find a usage that appears novel but has actually been kicking around for quite a while. Consider the verb big-up, meaning ‘to praise or promote; to raise the profile of.’ Three recent quotes from American media sources give you a sense of how it’s being used these days. Here’s the actress Jaime Pressly critiquing the show “Ugly Betty”: “They’re purposefully big-upping the ugly fat girl to make everybody feel great, but it also glamorizes the fact that people are getting plastic surgery because they can.” The music blog Idolator had this to say about an “American Idol” contestant: “This is actually the second time that Hennessy has been big-upped by the Idol powers that be,” adding, “is big-upping this girl really the best strategy to boost ratings?” And finally a profile of Staten Island’s Budos Band notes: “Legit blogs like Brooklyn Vegan and online publications like Pitchfork and RollingStone.com have also big-upped the band.” This might be the verb of the moment in hip, pop-culture-savvy varieties of American English, but it already has a long history in Caribbean and British English.
(more…)

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8. The Super Bowl and Super Tuesday: How’d They Get So “Super”?

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Americans have two “super” events coming up on the national agenda: Super Bowl XLII on Sunday between the Giants and Patriots, followed two days later by Super Tuesday, when about half the country will vote in Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. Fox, the network that is broadcasting the Super Bowl, is even creating a Super mashup before the game begins, with two hours of coverage on Sunday morning mixing politics and football. It’s all quite super, some might say super-duper. So how did we get to this level of superheated superabundancy?

(more…)

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9. Intractable Usage Disputes: “Less” and “None”

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In the closing sentences of last week’s column about Super Bowl and Super Tuesday, I unwittingly set off some readers’ usage alarms. Talking about terms like Tsunami Tuesday and Super-Duper Tuesday, I wrote: “But none of these amplified epithets have managed to displace good old Super Tuesday.” That’s right — I used none with the plural verb have instead of singular has. I then continued: “A Google News search currently finds nearly 20,000 articles referencing Super Tuesday in the past month, compared to less than 1,000 for Super-Duper Tuesday and less than 500 for Tsunami Tuesday.” Less than 1,000, less than 500? Not fewer? Eagle-eyed commenters were to quick to pick up on both of these usage points. I’d like to say I hid these in the column as a test for readers, but I wasn’t that clever. It does provide a good opportunity, however, to take a look at two of the more contentious debates over English usage in modern times.

(more…)

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10. Extending the History of Words: The Case of “Ms.”

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Lost in the hubbub about the new words and disappearing hyphens in the latest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is a more subtle type of editorial revision. The Shorter, as a dictionary built on historical principles, provides information about the age of words and their main senses. The date range of earliest known use is noted in each entry by E (early), M (mid), or L (late) plus a century number: thus “M18″ means a word was first recorded in the mid-18th century. This style of dating is admittedly approximate, but giving the exact year of a word’s first recorded use would lend a false sense of precision. We very rarely can determine the first “baptismal” usage of a word with any confidence. But even with dates given by rough century divisions, the editors of the Shorter have been able to revise the dating of nearly 4,500 words and senses based on discoveries of earlier recorded uses, known as “antedatings” in the dictionary world. Much of this new antedating information is derived from the ongoing work done for the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Since I dabble in what my colleague Erin McKean recently called “the competitive sport of antedating,” I thought I’d share a discovery of mine that made it into the new edition of the Shorter.

(more…)

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11. When Spellcheckers Attack: Perils of the Cupertino Effect

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Dictionaries, for all their virtues, can sometimes be troublemakers. Ever since the dawn of word processing, dictionaries have been mined to create wordlists for automated spellcheckers. (OUP, for example, offers its own spellchecker on CD-ROM in addition to licensing its dictionary data for various handheld devices and software add-ons.) These dictionary-derived inventories are used to detect and correct spelling errors, by checking to see if the words in a user’s text match what’s found in the wordlist. If an error is detected, algorithms help decide what the user might have meant to type and alternatives are suggested from the accepted list of words. Of course, a spellchecker is only as good as its wordlist and its correction algorithms. Anyone who has spellchecked a document is familiar with the laughably incongruous suggestions that are sometimes provided. And every once in a while incautious users allow these laughers to get through to their final text.

(more…)

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12. How Do “Miss Steaks” Go Unnoticed? It’s Along Story

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Last week’s column focused on the havoc that automated spellcheckers can wreak when a suggested “correction” turns out to be utterly wrong. More often, though, people who over-rely on spellcheckers can run into trouble when a misspelling is actually a legitimate word and therefore isn’t flagged as an error. There’s a well-circulated bit of verse (with variations going back to 1992) poking fun at people’s tendency to ignore mistakes that spellcheckers miss:

Eye halve a spelling chequer,
It came with my Pea Sea.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks I can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your shore real glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My chequer tolled me sew.

(more…)

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13. Oxford Word Of The Year: Locavore

It’s that time of the year again. It is finally starting to get cold (if you are worried about the global warming maybe you should become carbon-neutral) and the New Oxford American Dictionary is preparing for the holidays by making its biggest announcement of the year. The 2007 Word of the Year is (drum-roll please) locavore.

The past year saw the popularization of a trend in using locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives.

The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation. (more…)

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14. “Word of the Year” Mania!

zimmer.jpgIt’s always an exciting time at OUP when the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year is selected. As announced here on Monday, this year’s choice is locavore, meaning “a person who endeavors to eat only locally produced foods.” The word may very well strike a resonant chord for anyone who has mulled over how many miles a bunch of bananas has logged before it gets to the local grocery store. But unlike some of our previous Words of the Year — most recently, podcast in 2005 and carbon neutral in 2006 — locavore is very much “on the cusp,” not yet firmly established in widespread usage, despite its great potential. That means Oxford lexicographers will continue to monitor its progress to see if it eventually warrants inclusion in the next edition of NOAD.

(more…)

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15. Kindle: The Holy Grail or the last gasp of eBooks?

By Evan Schnittman

You have heard rumors of it for nearly a year now – Amazon has an ebook reader that will run on a new ebook kindle.jpgplatform powered by Mobipocket. Well, after many stops and starts, today Amazon released Kindle, or, what I call the “readers’ iPod.” This device, coupled with the awesome power of the Amazon web sales machine, represents perhaps the most significant moment in the history of eBooks.

I have always maintained that the iPod coupled with iTunes model is the key to a compelling ebook business. The iPod, perhaps the most fantastic device any of us own, would have been just another cool device sitting in our junk drawer if Apple hadn’t been prescient about the duality in digital content; Device + Network = Adoption. (more…)

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16. The Birth of Locavore

Jessica Prentice coined the word “locavore” which was chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year! We asked her how the word came about. Her answer is below.

There’s only one word for it: giddy. That’s how I’ve been feeling since reading the first email informing me that “locavore” was voted 2007’s “Word of the Year” by Oxford University Press. It’s the same feeling you have when you’re twelve years old and the guy you have a crush on gives you a valentine, and doesn’t give one to anyone else. You blush, you jump up and down in your seat, and you send excited text messages to the people you know will understand.

And how exciting to be asked to blog about it and be able to tell the story from my point of view! From the very beginning, the word “locavore” had legs. It’s actually been a fascinating phenomenon to watch: to see something that never existed before take on meaning and gather momentum. It’s also a phenomenon that would have been impossible before the internet. So, how did the word “locavore” come about? (more…)

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17. The Shocking Story of “Tase”

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In the interviews I’ve done with the press for the New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year selection, one word from our runner-up list always seems to draw comment: tase (or taze), meaning “to stun with a Taser (a brand of electroshock gun).” The incident that popularized the word tase is still fresh in the minds of many Americans: at a public forum with Sen. John Kerry at the University of Florida on Sep. 17, 2007, the student Andrew Meyer was arrested by University police after being subdued with a Taser. As millions would later see on YouTube and surrounding media coverage, Meyer shouted, “Don’t tase me, bro!” as the police sought to restrain him. This quickly became a well-traveled catchphrase, appearing on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and the like. Despite all the attention tase has received from this event, the word actually has had a long history predating its moment in the pop-cultural sun. (more…)

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18. New Words on the Block: Back When “Movies” Were Young

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When we think about new additions to the English lexicon such as locavore or tase (or other candidates for the New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year), it’s easy to forget that some of our most common vocabulary items were once awkward newcomers, like transfer students desperately trying to fit in with the other kids in class. A good reminder of that is John Ayto’s A Century of New Words. Looking through this “chronology of words that shaped our age,” one is struck again and again how so many of our old lexical friends are really not so old after all. Have we really only been talking about plastics since 1909, when Leo Baekeland invented bakelite? And who would have guessed the T-shirt has only been around since 1920, and the zipper since 1925? All of these words must have sounded downright peculiar when they first came on the scene, and yet now they’re unremarkable elements of the linguistic landscape.

(more…)

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19. From “Nuclear Winter” to “Carbon Summer”

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When Al Gore received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness about man-made climate change, his acceptance speech featured a new word, or rather a new sense of an old word, that Oxford lexicographers have been watching closely: carbon, in the sense of “carbon dioxide or other gaseous carbon compounds released into the atmosphere.” As I wrote back in July, this extended sense of carbon can be found in all sorts of novel lexical compounds: carbon-neutral (2006 New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year), carbon footprint, carbon tax, carbon trading, and so forth. In his speech, Gore introduced another compound into the mix: carbon summer.
(more…)

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20. Quixotic Coinages: The Failure of the Epicene Pronoun

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Earlier this week I spent an enjoyable hour being interviewed on the Wisconsin Public Radio show “At Issue with Ben Merens.” Though our topic was ostensibly the New Oxford American Dictionary’s choice of locavore as Word of the Year, as well as other notable words of 2007, we soon ventured into other word-related matters when the lines were opened for listeners’ calls. One caller had his own coinage that he hoped might someday achieve the fame of locavore and other recent additions to the language. Since English lacks a singular pronoun that can be used to refer to a person regardless of gender, the caller suggested that O be used for this purpose (since I is used as the first-person singular pronoun). (more…)

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21. Our Nameless Decade: What “Aught” We Call It?

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Last week when I was interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio about notable new words like locavore, some listeners called in to ask about words that seem to be missing from English. One such lexical gap that came up is the absence of a non-gendered singular third-person pronoun to replace “he or she,” as I discussed in my last column. Another listener raised the question, why don’t we have a suitable name for the first decade of the 21st century? It’s a curious situation: here we are at the end of 2007, and we still lack a commonly accepted term for the current decade. Very often English speakers deal with this quandary by employing the strategy of “no-naming” (a term that sociolinguists use to describe the avoidance of address terms when one is unsure what to call one’s interlocutor). You can hear this kind of no-naming when a radio station announces that it plays “hits from the ’80s, ’90s… and today!” But that’s hardly a satisfying solution. Surely we can do better in the next two years before the decade runs out?
(more…)

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22. National Dictionary Day: Italian

Dictionary Day has been a lot of fun and we hope you will continue to celebrate all week by taking advantage of the the free access to Oxford Language Dictionaries Online. Our final quiz is about Italian words. Which quiz did you do best on, French, German, Spanish or Italian?

Question 1: In English we turn as red as a beetroot; what vegetable do we resemble in Italian?

Question 2: If someone offers to go alla romana on a meal out, what do they mean?

Question 3: You want to translate the news to your Italian friend – what are the Italian terms for climate change? fair trade? PFI?

Question 4: You are familiar with your everyday cappuccino, but what did the word originally describe? And what do latte and macchiato mean in Italian?

Question 5: What’s the Italian for weekend, marketing, pub, happy hour?
(more…)

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23. National Dictionary Day: Spanish

So have you used your new German and French words in a sentence yet? If you want to wow your friends even more take the Spanish quiz below. Questions were gleaned from the Oxford Language Dictionaries Online which is freely accessible though the 21st. If you have trouble with the quiz below use OLDO to find the answers! Be sure to check back later for our final quiz which will be in Italian!

Question 1: What’s the difference in Spanish between te quiero and quiero té?

Question 2: In English we have blue jokes; what color are they in Spanish?

Question 3: If Madrid or Barcelona are described as colapsado, what has happened?

Question 4: What do a pensamiento, a nomeolvides, and a margarita have in common?
(more…)

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24. Are We Giving Free Rei(g)n to New Spellings?

zimmer.jpgOn Tuesday, in celebration of National Dictionary Day, ABC World News with Charles Gibson ran a piece about how some old expressions are being respelled (and reimagined) in new ways. They had me on to say a few words about how such respellings sometimes become so common that they make their way into the hallowed pages of Oxford’s dictionaries. (You can watch the webcast version of the segment here.) The whole thing was inspired by an OUPblog column I wrote a few months ago, “Shifting Idioms: An Eggcornucopia.” With the help of some amusing animated characters, ABC News correspondent Robert Krulwich took a look at a few of the “eggcorns” I discussed, namely vocal chords (vs. vocal cords), free reign (vs. free rein), and shoe-in (vs. shoo-in). Despite the light-hearted tone of the segment, I’ve received a number of grave responses wondering why Oxford University Press is so cavalierly allowing “corrupted” spellings into its dictionaries. So perhaps some clarification is in order. (more…)

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25. What is your Word of the Century so far?

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By Kirsty OUP-UK

language-report-2007.jpgSusie Dent, author of OUP’s annual Language Report, has told us that the word of the year for 2007 is “footprint”, but can any one word sum up the 21st century so far?

We are conducting a poll over at the AskOxford website, and would love you to take part. You can either choose from one of the selection that Susie has put together from her five years of monitoring the language for her books, or if you don’t agree with any of them, you can nominate your own.

To get you thinking, here are a few of the words you can choose from: (more…)

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