Season’s greetings – Episode 29 – The Oxford Comment

Say goodbye to endless stuffing: it's time to welcome our most beloved season of wreaths, wrapping paper...and confusion. The questions, as we began delving, were endless. Should we say happy
Say goodbye to endless stuffing: it's time to welcome our most beloved season of wreaths, wrapping paper...and confusion. The questions, as we began delving, were endless. Should we say happy [More]

The AUTO- age

How readily someone may be understood when using a new word will depend on several factors: the intuitable transparency of meaning, its clarity in context, the receptiveness of the audience, and so
How readily someone may be understood when using a new word will depend on several factors: the intuitable transparency of meaning, its clarity in context, the receptiveness of the audience, and so [More]

The B-word and its kin

Not too long ago, I promised to return to the origin of b-d words. Today I’ll deal with Engl. bad and its look-alikes, possibly for the last time—not because everything is now clear (nothing is
Not too long ago, I promised to return to the origin of b-d words. Today I’ll deal with Engl. bad and its look-alikes, possibly for the last time—not because everything is now clear (nothing is [More]

Wading through an endless field, or, still gleaning

What is the origin of the now popular phrase in the house, as in “Ladies and gentlemen, Bobby Brown is in the house”? I don’t know, but a short explanation should be added to my response. A good
What is the origin of the now popular phrase in the house, as in “Ladies and gentlemen, Bobby Brown is in the house”? I don’t know, but a short explanation should be added to my response. A good [More]

Clues, code-breaking, and cruciverbalists: the language of crosswords

The recent release of The Imitation Game has revealed the important role crosswords played in the recruitment of code-breakers at Bletchley Park. The Daily Telegraph organised a contest in which
The recent release of The Imitation Game has revealed the important role crosswords played in the recruitment of code-breakers at Bletchley Park. The Daily Telegraph organised a contest in which [More]

Monthly etymology gleanings for February 2015

One month is unlike another. Sometimes I receive many letters and many comments; then lean months may follow. February produced a good harvest (“February fill the dyke,” as they used to say), and I
One month is unlike another. Sometimes I receive many letters and many comments; then lean months may follow. February produced a good harvest (“February fill the dyke,” as they used to say), and I [More]

Going sour: sweet words in slang

Slang—mocking, sneering, casting a jaundiced eye on the world’s proprieties—is by its nature sour. It finds approval hard, congratulation challenging, and affection almost impossible. Yet even if
Slang—mocking, sneering, casting a jaundiced eye on the world’s proprieties—is by its nature sour. It finds approval hard, congratulation challenging, and affection almost impossible. Yet even if [More]

Coleridge’s way with words

Why should we commemorate Samuel Taylor Coleridge? The obvious reason is his high status as a poet, but a better one might be his exuberance as a wordsmith. As a poet, after all, he is widely known
Why should we commemorate Samuel Taylor Coleridge? The obvious reason is his high status as a poet, but a better one might be his exuberance as a wordsmith. As a poet, after all, he is widely known [More]