Writing in Sunday's Houston Chronicle, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg shone a spotlight on the hundreds of Houston students who got hooked on Vocabulary.com, as one "campus-wide obsession" turned into a recipe for academic success. Continue reading...
The public radio show "On the Media" notes that "in the age of Snowden and Manning, the term 'whistleblower' is increasingly present in our media. But where exactly did the word come from?" Brooke Gladstone talked to our executive editor Ben Zimmer for some historical background. Continue reading...
Last night, Jon Stewart announced that he will be retiring from Comedy Central's The Daily Show. We'll miss Stewart and his writing team for lots of reasons. But as dedicated vocabularians, we'll be especially sorry to see the end of Stewart's skewering of overhyped news through clever use of word blending, known as portmanteaus. Continue reading...
East Coast residents (outside of New England) might have been a bit underwhelmed by the blizzard-that-wasn't known as "Winter Storm Juno." While this "junior" storm has fallen short of the hyped-up expectations, it's still interesting to consider how it achieved named status in the first place. Continue reading...
Topics: Media Naming Words
Is there any point in remaining "spoiler-free," steering clear of any crucial plot points of movies or television shows you haven't seen yet? That's the question raised by Netflix in its new "Living with Spoilers" campaign, and it set me off on a search for the roots of the "spoiler" in my latest column for the Wall Street Journal. Continue reading...

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The Return of Lexicon Valley

Lexicon Valley, Slate's podcast for language lovers, has just returned after an extended hiatus. First up is an interview with Columbia University professor John McWhorter about his new book The Language Hoax. Listen to the podcast here, and also check out Mark Peters' review of McWhorter's book here. And stay tuned for news about our own Ben Zimmer joining forces with the Lexicon Valley podcasters!
From the annual meeting of the American Copy Editors Society in Las Vegas comes some earth-shaking news: the folks who edit the Associated Press Stylebook have loosened the distinction between "over" and "more than." The stylebook editors announced that they are now fine with "over" being used with numbers. Many of those in attendance were aghast, while others hailed the change as long overdue. Continue reading...
Topics: Grammar Media Usage
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