December 2017, issue no. 397
Matthew Engel has written for many years in The Guardian and the Financial Times, on topics ranging from politics to sport, and between 1993 and 2007 he produced editions More
Bruce Moore reviews 'The Word Detective: A life in words, from Serendipity to Selfie' by John Simpson
What does a lexicographer do? How do you become a lexicographer? What makes a good lexicographer? What is the difference between a ‘standard’ dictionary and a dictionary based on historical principles? How do you reinvent the Oxford English Dictionary so that it has a secure place in an online modern publishing world? These are among the questions explo ... More
There have been popular accounts of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, especially Simon Winchester’s The Surgeon of Crowthorne (1998) and The Meaning of Everything (2003), and th More
The Australian National Dictionary – the second edition of which has just been published – is based on historical principles and modelled on the large Oxford ...More
Words and their meanings, more than any other aspects of language, hold a special fascination for people. Perhaps it is because, unlike these other features (which are set down during childhood), they continue to be acquired throughout one's lifetime. Words and their meanings are also intimately tied to the life and culture of speakers, and all sorts of perspectives ... More
The Western Isles arch across the north-west coast of Scotland, sheltering the mainland from the North Sea’s fury. In summer there are few places more magical than these islands, which Seton Gordon once described as standing ‘on the rim of the material earth’ looking west to the immortal realm of Tir nan Og.
On the northern islands, granite and gneiss ... More
The Great War produced its own idiom and slang. Many of the new words and phrases created during the long conflict, such as ‘tank’ and ‘barrage’, became part of standard English, although often with a different nuance of meaning.
The recording of Australian soldier slang was seen as important at the end of the war. It was recognised as being integral ... More
American Paul Dickson has written many books on aspects of language, including Words from the White House (2013). He also claims to have invented some fifty words, although he admits that only two of these have any real chance of becoming ‘household words’: word word ‘a word that is repeated to distinguish it ... More
There was a recent flurry of Australian media interest in the wake of the publication of a new edition of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, edited by Tony Thorne. Thorne only added a small number of new Australian slang termsto the new edition: ‘ort’, buttocks; ‘tockley’, penis; and ‘unit’, defined as a bogan. The apparent lack of new Austra ... More
In a 2011 lecture, David Crystal, a leading authority on the English language, spoke about the possibility of a ‘super-dictionary’ of English – a dictionary that would include every word in global English. Such a dictionary was, he acknowledged, a ‘crazy, stupid idea’, but an idea that seemed somehow possible in the electronic age, where the constraints of print no longer apply.... More