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  • Open Dictionary Word of the Month: xe

    Posted by on February 08, 2016

    © PhotoDisc / Getty Images / Lisa Zador145 new entries were accepted into the Open Dictionary in December, slightly down on November. Overall submissions were slightly down, but the percentage of entries accepted was very similar to the previous month. The trend over the half year since we started counting has been for the overall number of submissions to fall (which is good, because it means we are getting less spam) and the percentage of entries accepted to rise (also good, because it means that the quality of submissions is improving).

    New media continue to figure, with additions such as textspeak and online abbreviations such as tbf, tfti, and idc. These have been around for a while, but are only now making their way into the dictionary. The digital world featured further in items like the newish sense of swipe, the phrasal verb take down (a website), youtube and instagram used as verbs, the noun information society and the adjective web-based.

    To balance out these novelties we had a scattering of old and infrequent words: astrolabe, congeries, defenestrate and recondite among them. Science and medicine were represented by words like ablation, annelid, hydrography, and my favourite, the wonderfully named islets of Langerhans, which sound like Baltic holiday resorts but are in fact groups of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

    My word of the month reflects changing ideas about gender and sexuality: not heteroflexible, but the gender-neutral pronoun xe, pronounced /zi/, added by a user in the US. Gender is a hot topic at the moment and it will be interesting to see if this term, and others like it, gain a place in everyday language use.

    Thanks for all your submissions and do keep them coming. If there’s a word or expression that you think deserves inclusion in the Open Dictionary you can submit it here. Don’t forget to check first to make sure your word isn’t in our dictionary already.

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  • Language and words in the news – 5th February, 2016

    This post contains a selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English, language change, education in general, and language learning and teaching in particular. Feel free to contact us if you would like to submit a link […]

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  • Language tip of the week: tell someone about something that has happened

    In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of language tips to accompany the Real Vocabulary theme we look at how you can expand your vocabulary in English by using different words and expressions instead of core vocabulary items. This week’s tip looks […]

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  • US election word of the week: caucus

    In this new series we will be looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the runup to the Presidential election in late 2016. First off, caucus. On Monday 1st February, registered Republican and Democrat voters gathered in schools, libraries and even private homes across the state of […]

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  • Agreeing with grammatical concord

    In a post last month about neither was vs. neither were, Liz Potter looked at hundreds of real-life examples from the British National Corpus and found that neither in singular and plural uses occurred about equally often. Reviewing more recent corpus data led her to conclude that the plural use could be gaining the upper […]

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  • Language and words in the news – 30th January, 2016

    This post contains a selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English, language change, education in general, and language learning and teaching in particular. Feel free to contact us if you would like to submit a link […]

    Read the full article
  • Just a bunch of politicians

    Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, may be regretting his choice of words in a political debate earlier this week. Mr Cameron’s opposite number, Jeremy Corbyn, had spent the previous day at a refugee camp in northern France, and in a House of Commons debate the PM attacked Corbyn for “meeting with a bunch of migrants […]

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  • Language tip of the week: tell someone something

    In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of language tips to accompany the Real Vocabulary theme we look at how you can expand your vocabulary in English by using different words and expressions instead of core vocabulary items. This week’s tip looks […]

    Read the full article
  • Henry’s monthly musings – the latest lingo

    Recently we’ve talked a lot on the blog about words like bae and fleek that have come into being amongst younger generations before becoming accepted terms of popular usage.  Secretly we language enthusiasts all dream of creating the next viral buzzword, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who dreams of his idiolect being […]

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  • Language and words in the news – 22nd January, 2016

    This post contains a selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English, language change, education in general, and language learning and teaching in particular. Feel free to contact us if you would like to submit a link […]

    Read the full article
  • Language tip of the week: talking in order to decide something

    In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of language tips to accompany the Real Vocabulary theme we look at how you can expand your vocabulary in English by using different words and expressions instead of core vocabulary items. This week’s tip looks […]

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  • Real Vocabulary Quiz, Question 5: is it OK to use the expression “be comprised of”?

    Our Real Grammar series showed how the evidence of language in use often undermines or contradicts the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people insist on. In this series on Real Vocabulary, with Scott Thornbury, we’re bringing you blog posts, videos and a quiz that give evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about vocabulary. ______________ […]

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  • Neither was or neither were?

    Macmillan Dictionaries recently received a query about an example at the entry for the phrase ‘neither … nor …‘. The example was this one: Neither his son nor his daughter were at the funeral. The writer queried the presence of a plural verb in this example, believing this to be incorrect because neither, being singular, […]

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Recent Comments

Recent Comments
  • Posted by Paddy to Just a bunch of politicians on February 08, 2016 Hello, interesting post and debate, but in this case - and I have not seen or heard a clip of the comments in question - surely tone of voice and body language would also inform us hugely as to what the PM's attitude really was. Does seem to be an unwise choice of words though. If not disparaging, not exactly flattering ether. Isn't priming in this case simply a question of frequent use and therefore, in English at...

  • Posted by Macmillan Dictionary to Language tip of the week: American and British English differences on February 04, 2016 Thanks for pointing this out, it has now been corrected.

  • Posted by Klinsman Hinjaya to Language tip of the week: American and British English differences on February 04, 2016 Thanks for this great article! However, I found a spelling mistake: the word "bacherlor" in "American speakers often use graduate student to refer to someone who has finished their bacherlor’s degree" should be "bachelor". Thanks for your attention!

  • Posted by Liz to US election word of the week: caucus on February 03, 2016 A lot of people's first encounter with this word must be in Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland', where a bemused Alice participates in a 'caucus race', which may or may not be a satire on the futility of politics: `What I was going to say,' said the Dodo in an offended tone, `was, that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.' `What IS a Caucus-race?' said Alice; not that she wanted much...

  • Posted by Stan Carey to Agreeing with grammatical concord on February 01, 2016 I love that anecdote, Liz. It seems only right that God would love Concorde, but why this should be an official part of the service is a more mysterious manoeuvre.