Category Archives: Uncategorized

Guest Post: Cataloguing the Catalogue

Cosmin Dszurdsza is a research assistant at The Life of Words. In my last guest post I discussed problematic magazine classifications. Now, once again, a periodical publication proves to be an exciting and difficult genre identification challenge. The kind of text I will be dealing with today is the “catalogue” (filtered out of our data […]

Shakespeare’s Earliest Citations in the OED

No author’s representation in the OED has received more comment than Shakespeare’s: if you ever come across a mention of OED citation evidence, more than likely it’s being used to substantiate (sometimes challenge or qualify) a claim that Shakespeare invented the most English words, or made up the most new meanings for existing words, or […]

Ted Cruz is no Scyld Scefing

I’ve read Beowulf. Beowulf was a friend of mine. And Senator… You know, when things sound stupid, they very usually are. And this headline sounds stupid: Ted Cruz as Beowulf: Matching Candidates With the Books They Sound Like [- The Upshot (New York Times Data Blog – click to view article)] No one who has […]

Now With More Nodes! Updated Prize Network Maps

In his comments to my last post on “Poetry Prize Networks in the UK“, Neil Astley said my maps ought to have included the Costa Poetry Awards. This had occurred to me when I was putting them together, but I hadn’t been able to track down a proper list of the judges for that prize. […]

Subsequent OED Quotations

You sometimes hear that Shakespeare contributed more words to the English language than anyone else. This claim is based on searches of the quotation evidence in the 2nd edition of the OED. In OED2, Shakespeare is the most-cited single-author source [33,131 quotations], and the most first-cited source in an entry [first evidence for 2,017 words], […]

The Queen’s English – Respec’

Looking through some graduate work the other day I came across a reference to “the Queen’s English,” in scare quotes, used in the general sense to describe the phenomenon of socially privileged dialect (as opposed to a specific British class dialect). I’ve never heard “the Queen’s English” actually referred to positively or unironically. In my […]

On the origins of bears, and words for bears

A poem by Simon Armitage called “The Great Bear” (from CloudCukooLand, 1997) has a few things to say about, and to, a bear – or bears in general. The poem is modelled as a set of ratifications (“it’s right… And right…” etc.) of ursine legends and myths, actual and invented:  [embedded from Google Books] The […]

“Disobstetricate not their enixibility”: OED’s Double Hapaxes

Or, Urquhart’s folly. Here’s a challenge: write a sentence with two never-before-used words in it, and see if the Oxford English Dictionary ever adds both of them to its long list of English words. In “Acrasial Philogamy – Ghost Hapaxes in OED”, I documented some words that are included as headwords in the OED on […]

We’re moving! Go to “The Life of Words”!

For the last two and more years, I’ve been posting here on topics related to poetry, dictionaries, computers, and so on. Over 100 posts later, it’s time for a new home. As of June 15, 2014, I’ll be posting at my new project site: The Life of Words I hope you’ll visit us there […]