From the category archives:

linguistics and lexicography

  • Words change, and that’s OK

    Posted by on September 28, 2015

    Many of the bugbears of language purists hinge on what they believe is the incorrect use of particular words. But the meanings and usage of words change all the time: new senses emerge, old ones fade or shift, and senses can vary greatly from one context to another. This month Macmillan Dictionary introduced its Real […]

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  • Language, logic, and Lewis Carroll

    Posted by on September 14, 2015

    One of the joys of reading Lewis Carroll lies in his treatment of logic – the wonderful mixture of care and irreverence with which he manipulates the everyday rules and conventions through which we make sense. As a mathematician who wrote books on logic, Carroll seems to have delighted in playing around with it in […]

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  • Etymology bites back

    Posted by on August 31, 2015

    We’ve all been offered a ‘morsel’ of something – pie, cake, or some other food perhaps – or we may have received a morsel of praise for being the person who offered it. But unless you’re etymologically inclined, you might not have stopped to wonder where the word comes from, and it’s a lot less […]

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  • From belfie to twitterhoea: new words from social media

    Posted by on August 27, 2015

    All this month, we’re celebrating the fact that the Open Dictionary has now been integrated with the main Dictionary in search results. A major source of new words these days is of course social media. And with that in mind, I’ve scoured the Open Dictionary archives to find the best contributions the worlds of Facebook […]

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  • Bandying the word ‘bandy’ about

    Posted by on August 17, 2015

    Gill Francis’s post on updating the linguistics entries in Macmillan Dictionary described a technical term as ‘not usually bandied about in public’. This got me wondering about the curious word bandy and the different ways we use it. We might say someone is bandy-legged, for example, meaning curved outwards at the knees (bow-legged is a […]

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  • The dictionary that keeps on growing: grammar and linguistics

    Posted by on August 05, 2015

    In his recent post, Michael announced that the latest update of the Macmillan Dictionary features a substantial revision of the grammatical and linguistics entries. These constitute the metalanguage of English – all the words and phrases used to talk about how our language works. They include word classes like verb and noun, larger units like […]

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  • It’s a libfix-aganza!

    Posted by on August 03, 2015

    In his report on the new updates to Macmillan Dictionary, Michael Rundell discussed the increasingly popular and productive term -mageddon, as in carmageddon and snowmageddon. Each such coinage invokes, by analogy with the others and with the original word Armageddon, ‘the idea of something bad occurring on a large scale and causing chaos or destruction’. […]

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  • The dictionary that keeps on growing

    Posted by on July 28, 2015

    The latest update of the Macmillan Dictionary went live last week, and it includes 146 new words. On top of that, 25 existing words have gained new meanings, and we’ve made over 130 other changes – updating or improving definitions, adding “new” alternative pronunciations, and so on. The dictionary keeps on growing. We’ve talked before […]

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  • Tracking the emergence of new words across time and space

    Posted by on July 21, 2015

    A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to receive a visit from Jack Grieve, a researcher and lecturer from Aston University, England, who delivered a fascinating presentation: Tracking the emergence of new words across time and space, examining the emergence of new words on Twitter. Intrigued by what he had to say, Henry decided […]

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  • Finding fault in the right places

    Posted by on July 20, 2015

    A common way to discuss what is correct or appropriate or not in English is by pointing out shortcomings in other people’s usage. This practice has a long tradition in language commentary and pedagogy, and while it can be helpful and enlightening, it’s not always constructive. Not only in the sense that people frequently misidentify […]

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