Tag Archives: neologism

Plural Fixation

Or, “How not to be a pedant with the OED.” I like a good hatchet job. Done well, the literary smack-down is thrilling and educative. Terry Eagleton on Richard Dawkins [“Lunging, flailing, mispunching”, LRB, 19.10.06] is among my favourite examples of the dark art: characterizing Dawkins’s idea of the Christian god as “some kind of […]

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], […]

“Pneumatic Bliss” – Eliot’s Breasty OED Entry

More from the T. S. Eliot / Oxford English Dictionary files [for background, see “Did TSE use OED, SOED, or COD?” and “Eliotic OED“]. In the latter post, I noted that 0.0135% of OED definitions contain the phrase “[with/in] allusion to” and that two of these are to poems by Eliot. Here are lines from […]

Eliotic OED

[UPDATE 9/15: If what follows interests you at all please see this update: “Two Notes on T. S. Eliot and the OED“] OED editor Robert Burchfield was responsible for adding Woolfian, Poundian, Joycean, Yeatsian, and Audenesque to the dictionary while preparing the Supplement of 1976-86 (later incorporated into the Second Edition, OED2). There’s no Eliotesque or […]


A song from my early youth came back to me the other day. Here’s the first verse, with a rough translation in italics: Le bon roi Dagobert                       Good King Dagobert A mis sa culotte à l’envers ;           Put on his culotte backwards ; Le grand saint Éloi                         The great Saint Eligius Lui dit : Ô […]

Snowclone Sandwich

“Snowclone” is a word for a kind of transferable, reusable pattern of phrase, such as the original “X have Y words for Z” (on the pattern “Eskimos have fifty-five (or pick your number) words for snow“, so transferable to “The French have no word for entrepreneur“, or whatever), or “X is the new Y” (on […]

“Chickadee” an “Authorism”?

This morning while watching a small horde of black-capped chickadees [a banditry or dissimulation of chickadees, you might say, or just a flock] taking turns at the feeder, a I had a quick look through Paul Dickson’s Authorisms: Words Wrought by Authors. The book is a list of literary neologisms and their attributions. There are […]

Ironic OED quotations

Knee-deep in OED quotation evidence today, I’ve been noting down some ironic entries. Here’s a selected list. Headwords are indicated by bold type. 1905 Daily Chron. 22 Nov. 6/7 There are ‘Australianisms’ enough to make a dictionary an essential for the proper understanding of an Antipodean journal. …not to mention ‘Australianism’ (no doubt an Anglicism)… […]

Hello, baby!

What did people say to babies before the 1820s? Some weeks ago my two-month old daughter began to smile. The internet has this to say about how to encourage babies to do more of that: Smile widely at her and offer a warm “hello” in that sing-song pitch parents do so well. [webmd.com] My wife […]

“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 […]