CONTRIBUTOR : Ben Zimmer

Ben Zimmer is executive editor of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus. He is language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to his regular "Word Routes" column here, he contributes to the group weblog Language Log. He is also the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society.
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For the latest installment of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at the peculiar history of the word pumpernickel — a kind of German bread with an origin that turns out to be downright devilish. Continue reading...
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At the 2015 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, it came down to a neck-and-neck battle between Dan Feyer and Tyler Hinman, the two titans of speed-solving. And in an absolutely heart-stopping finish, Dan beat Tyler by half a second. Continue reading...
TOPICS: Fun, Words
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On the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at the roots of the festive word carnival, associated with pre-Lenten celebrations around the Christian world. Some scholars speculate that the true origins of carnival actually lie in pagan rituals predating Christianity. Continue reading...
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Etymology can take some peculiar turns as a word criss-crosses different cultures. For the latest installment of Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast, I take the hosts along on the journey of the word cockamamie, which might seem stranger than fiction. Continue reading...
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The American Dialect Society made its 25th annual selection for Word of the Year, and for the first time the winner was actually a Twitter hashtag: #blacklivesmatter. Even though the socially conscious slogan is formed by combining three words, as a hashtag it was converted into something linguistically innovative, attracting the attention of the assorted language scholars who gathered for the vote at the society's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. Continue reading...
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Greetings from Portland, Oregon, where the American Dialect Society is holding its annual conference. On Thursday, in my capacity as chair of the society's New Words Committee, I presided over the nominating session for various categories in our Word of the Year selection Continue reading...
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It's time once again for the annual look back at the noteworthy words of the past year. Did you indulge in any manspreading or Columbusing this year? Were you concerned about dark money or plastigomerate? Here's a veritable vortex of words that rose to prominence in 2014. Continue reading...
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