Have you ever struggled to explain a nuclear meltdown caused by an incredibly stupid mistake? You would have been grateful for alternative terms, such as "a core rearrangement caused by an ill-advised learning opportunity." You can find these terms and more in Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceitful Language. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Books Language
Did that headline peak your interest? Or did it pique it? I'm waiting with baited breath for your answer. Or would that be bated? All of us have a tendency to replace a fossilized word, whose nuances have been lost, with a more standard definition of that word or a different word entirely. Through this process, phrases, like words, can change meaning over time. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Words Language
It's NBA Finals time—a time I love. I've been watching the NBA since I was a wee lad, back in the mythical time of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and the Minotaur. (I think the Minotaur played for Portland, but let me fact-check that.) Continue reading...
Topics: Words Fun Language
It's a little early to know what the 2015 Word of the Year will be, but I'd say we have a contender: dadbod (or dad bod). After appearing in an essay by Mackenzie Pearson, this term went viral, then nuclear, then possibly intergalactic. Dadbod has become so commonly used that I wouldn't be surprised if, somewhere near the Mars Rover, the term is validating the flabby physiques of retired Martian warlords. Continue reading...
Topics: Words Fun Language
The weather is getting warmer, so you might start to see men arrayed in stylishly rumpled seersucker suits (especially in the American South). On the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I followed the thread of seersucker all the way back to its Persian roots, and then looked at how both the fabric and the word spread around the world.  Continue reading...
In The Atlantic, Peter Beinhart called out a euphemism that was somehow common and under-the-radar at the same time: "Newspaper editors, lend me your ears: Please, never allow the phrase 'muscular foreign policy' to blight your pages again." Continue reading...
Topics: Words Fun Language
As keynote speaker at the 2015 American Copy Editors Society meeting, lexicographer Ben Zimmer showed off the resources in the Vocabulary.com Dictionary as part of a talk on "Nitpickery, Debunkage, and the Joys of Getting It Right." Not surprisingly, ACES attendees live-tweeting the address were more likely to take note of Zimmer's singing, rapping, and discussion of language anachronisms in "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey." Continue reading...
Topics: Fun Language Writing
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