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...
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
I love everything about used bookstores—except their negative effect on my wallet. I recently found another wallet-drainer—and a gem of a word book—in Chicago's wonderful Myopic Books: Hash House Lingo: The Slang of Soda Jerks, Short-Order Cooks, Bartenders, Waitresses, Carhops and Other Denizens of Yesterday's Roadside. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Words Fun
Following the enormously successful release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Slate's words correspondent Katy Waldman raised a question, "Why are they called the Avengers? What are they avenging?" This put us in mind of lexicographer Neal Whitman's observation a few years back that, at least in movies, "Avenging and vengeance are for good guys, while revenge is for the bad guys." Continue reading...
Lying is one of those embarrassing things that demands euphemisms. No one wants to say "I lied" or "I fibbed" or "I wrote fan fiction." So when called on the carpet for a lie, people reach into the lexical abyss for euphemisms. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Words Fun
Last August, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries published a list of words that they were adding to their dictionaries. Among them was neckbeard, which is listed as "A growth of hair on a man's neck." But this self-describing definition is not why the term was added. More interestingly, the term connotes someone with "poor grooming habits" and who's "socially inept." Continue reading...
Topics: Language Usage Words
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