Whether you like or loathe it, I bet you've noticed the return of –mentum: a suffix that fills the Internet during election season much as a sulfurous smell fills hell. This suffix is also a terrific reminder of a sad truth: the media will never, ever treat a presidential election as anything more than a sporting event with fewer concussions. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Words Politics
Are you baffled by the perplexing terminology favored by American politicians and pundits? A new book by Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark is here to help. Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes is an informative and humorous guide to deciphering contemporary political lingo. Here we present an excerpt from the book's introduction. Continue reading...
Just in time for the 4th of July, our own Ben Zimmer investigates how the term "Yank" started off as a term of disparagement but was reclaimed as an expression of patriotic pride in settings from world wars to the World Cup. Continue reading...
Tradecraft, which has been spy jargon since at least the 1960s, has been making its way into more mainstream consciousness recently, as we hear about operations like the search for Osama bin Laden, or about Edward Snowden's training as a spy. It's a good example of how words with seemingly transparent meanings can settle into semantic idiosyncrasy through historical circumstance. Continue reading...
A law firm that specializes in defending whistleblowers has started a petition on Change.org to persuade dictionaries and thesauruses to ditch their derogatory synonyms for whistleblower in favor of positive terms. Continue reading...
Today is the federal observation of George Washington's birthday, also called Presidents' Day. Five years ago, an unfortunate typo was discovered in a quotation from Washington chiseled on the front of the New York State Supreme Courthouse. That typo still lingers today. Continue reading...
It's that time of year when everyone is making their case for the Word of the Year. For Dennis Baron, English professor at the University of Illinois and author of the blog The Web of Language, the word of 2013 is none other than marriage. Continue reading...
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