Pluto is coming into startingly sharp focus, thanks to the first images and data received from the space probe New Horizons last week. As we learn more about this distant cousin of Earth, we're also expanding our linguistic horizons. Here's a closer look at some of the words and names in the Plutonian news. 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...
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...
Sunday is the longest day of the year and the official start to summer. To get ready, we're taking a look at the words and terms enshrined in our language that capture our collective experience of the summer season — trotted out once again like the shorts and sandals we've been waiting all winter to wear again. Continue reading...
How did a small middle school in Virginia earn a third place national finish in the 2014-2015 Vocab Bowl? One teacher's creative contest-making gave kids min-goals to aim for all year long. Continue reading...
In the last year, Hollywood has brought a whole lot of vocabulary learning to the silver screen, from the minions of Despicable Me 2 fame, to a host of mal- words brought to mind by Maleficent , and the vocabulary-heavy Divergent/Insurgent franchise. This weekend, those of us who go to movies hoping to get scared out of our seats are offered Insidious: Chapter 3. Continue reading...
Topics: Vocabulary Fun
On the latest episode of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at a classic Yiddishism: kibitz, which can mean "make unwanted comments (as a spectator at a card game)," or something more general like "chitchat." While it's a word with a rich history, its origins are ultimately mysterious. Continue reading...
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