While I have the greatest admiration for innovators of design, I don’t care for innovators in vocabulary.  Some words mean something.  You can tell me that language evolves and it’s a good thing until you’re blue in the face but I maintain that sometimes the original definition, you know, the one that actually means something, is better and ought to be understood and used.  Here is what I’m talking about.

Oxfords are a type of shoe.  Oxford is not, however, the name given to all black dress shoes that are sort of traditional and may or many not have leather soles and pointy toes.  This is an oxford:

This is not an Oxford:

Can’t spot the difference?  We can always count on wikipedia:

“Oxfords, characterized by shoelace eyelet tabs that are stitched underneath the vamp contrast with Derbys, or blücher design, characterized by shoelace eyelet tabs that are sewn on top of the vamp.”

…and that’s it.  That’s all there is to Oxfords.  So we used to have two perfectly good words for two different things and now we have one word so vacuous that it can describe almost anything, which really means nothing.  This is what happens when the people in charge of branding and PR try to remake the meanings of words.  Rather than teaching a naive generation about shoes, they are taking advantage the uppity connotations that the word “oxford” has to North Americans.  Shoemakers of the world, you do us a disservice.  When you take a word that means something specific and use it to mean something less specific you make the whole English language less specific.  It’s like if I called all mammals cats because I like cats and all mammals are furry.  We’ve already got a word for mammals: mammals.  Please stop.

So all, take a look in your shoe collection.  Are your Oxfords really Oxfords?  Or are your Oxfords derbys?  I know for a fact that my Oxfords are derbys: well done Calvin.