We have all seen this tired loop of "instruction": distribute word list, have students look up words, ask students to use the words in original sentences. While encouraging usage is never a bad idea, it's not realistic to expect students to pivot from definition to usage without guidance. We suggest ditching (or at least delaying) the idea of originality and instead asking students to model their sentences on usage examples written by those people who are especially skilled with using words: professional writers. Continue reading...
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
With the boxing movie "Southpaw" opening, it's a good time to ponder where the term "southpaw" came from as an epithet for a left-hander. Baseball and boxing have both used the term for a long time to label lefty athletes, but which came first? Continue reading...
What sounds do you make when words fail? A garbled stutter? A whistle? Or is there just the resounding bump of your jaw hitting the floor? Turns out, there are words to capture the wordless shock we experience when we're confronted by mess, noise, violence, or otherwise sticky situations. They're linked by sound: repeated syllables and long vowels that are onomatopoeically evocative of the sounds that come out of our mouths when our brains are overwhelmed. Continue reading...
On July 25, the fourteenth Summer Special Olympics World Games will open in Los Angeles. Over the next seven days, 7,000 athletes will compete in sporting events at venues around the city, supported by 30,000 volunteers and cheered by 500,000 spectators. ESPN will broadcast the opening ceremony. It sounds festive. It sounds inspiring. But what makes it "special"? Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Words Branding
White House security has been one of the most reliable sources of comedy for the past several years, with scandal and buffoonery becoming the norm. Finally, the buffoonery has produced something I can use in endless search for tasty euphemisms. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Words Fun
The Supreme Court has issued a decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and as significant as that may be, as vocabularians, we can't get past the sighting of jiggery-pokery in Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion. Continue reading...
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