Susie Dent is well known English lexicographer, etymologist and media personality most recognised for her game show Countdown, which she has been a part of since 1992. She also appears in its comedy spinoff show 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown which, again, is very popular and still running. Before making her television debut, she worked with Oxford University Press (OUP) and compiled dictionaries for them. She continued her association with OUP even after her show started and wrote a series of annual language reports for them. She has also published numerous other interesting books about words, their origins and stories with other publishers. Her profile also includes co-hosting an award winning podcast and writing columns for Radio Times and i newspaper. Since 2016, she is the Honorary Vice-President of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).
After completing her masters in the US, Susie Dent returned to England and joined the Oxford University Press (OUP) where she helped compile dictionaries, first bilingual and then English.
It was here that she was asked to audition for Channel4’s gameshow – Countdown – involving word and number tasks. Initially hesitant, she ultimately auditioned and was selected as its resident lexicographer in 1992. She has been with the show since then and has made more than 2500 appearances. Amongst all the team members that are currently part of the show, she is the senior most one. In the show, she provides quick information on the origin of a specific word or phrase. Since 1993, she has also appeared in Countdown: Championship of Champions in which the best players of the recent series return and compete with each other. As a word expert, she has also appeared in Celebrity Countdown with celebrities as participants.
In 2012, she began appearing on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, again as a lexicographer. It is a spinoff show (of Countdown) hosted by comedian Jimmy Carr and has a strong comedy element in it. The show is immensely popular and still running. In 2017, she appeared in Channel 4’s television miniseries, Susie Dent's Guide to Swearing, where she looked into the origins of English swear words. The following year, she participated in Richard Osman’s House of Games as a contestant.
Apart from these, she has made numerous guest appearances in game and talk shows like Steph's Packed Lunch, Good Morning Britain, The One Show, BBC Breakfast and The Wright Stuff. She has also contributed to discussions on various radio shows about words like Word of Mouth and More or Less and is a regular panellist at Wordaholics.
In 2019, she started co-hosting her weekly radio podcast on language – Something Rhymes With Purple – along with writer, broadcaster, actor and former MP, Gyles Brandreth. The podcast won the award for Best Entertainment Podcast at 2020 British Podcast Awards.
In the meantime, she also returned to OUP and compiled a series of annual language reports from 2003 up till 2007. These reports were titled The Language Report (2003), Larpers and Shroomers (2004), Fanboys and Overdogs (2006), The Like, Language Report for Real (2007) and The Language Report: English on the Move 2000–2007 (2007). In 2008, the report was released in a new revised format and was called Words of the Year.
OUP and Susie Dent also collaborated for other works. In 2005, Winning Words was published and in 2009, What Made the Crocodile Cry? 101 questions about the English Language came out.
Apart from OUP, she has also worked with other publishers. These books include How to Talk Like a Local: From Cockney to Geordie (Random House, 2008), Susie Dent's Weird Words (Scholastic Non-Fiction, 2013), Dent's Modern Tribes: The Secret Languages of Britain (John Murray Press, 2017) and her latest book, Word Perfect (John Murray Press, 2020).
Apart from this, she has also edited the 19th and 20th edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (2013, 2018).
She is also a columnist for the Radio Times and The Week Junior and a keynote speaker for small companies as well as major corporations.
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Family & Personal Life
Susan Francesca Dent was born on 19th November 1964 in Woking, Surrey, England. She has a sister. Her parents divorced when she was thirteen years old.
She received her initial education at an independent catholic day school for girls, Marist Convent, in Ascot, Berkshire. She spent a term at the nearby Eton College to prepare for Oxbridge entrance exams and thereafter headed to Somerville College, Oxford for her B.A. in modern language. She then completed her Masters in German from Princeton University, United States.
From very early in her life, she was obsessed with words. On family trips, while her sister read magazines, she read German or French vocabulary book, eager to learn as many new words as possible by the time they eventually reached their final destination. Even before this, when she could not read, she studied the shapes of letters on the back of the shampoo bottles.
As a youngster, she was also quite interested in clothes and music.
Susie has been married to Paul Atkins, a British primary school teacher for a long time now and the couple have two children together – Lucy and Thea.