Topic:Words

We have occasionally invoked Tom Lehrer when discussing how the simple letter "e" can change the meaning of many words, citing his song "Silent 'E.'" That "e" can also magically change a word into another form, such as a noun into a verb. This being illogical English, there are few "rules" as to what it does, though. Continue reading...
TOPICS: Language, Spelling, Words
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"Staycation," "Bleisure," and Other Made-Up Travel Words

Is the travel industry particularly susceptible to making up words like "bleisure" (combining "business" and "leisure") and "staycation" (for a stay-at-home vacation)? Associated Press travel reporter Beth J. Harpaz investigates — with help from our own Ben Zimmer, who says that such neologisms "come in handy in a business sector where there's often a need to come up with clever marketing spin." Read the AP article here.
TOPICS: Marketing, Usage, Words
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Scrabble Showdown: "Zen" Versus... "Geocache"?

In Hasbro's "Scrabble Word Showdown," fans of the game have been narrowing down candidates for a new word to include the game's soon-to-be-revised official dictionary. Two finalists are left standing: zen (which many Scrabblers have been requesting), and... geocache, the recipient of a big get-out-the-vote effort by fans of the high-tech treasure hunt known as "geocaching." See the latest from Hasbro here, and read Caitlin Dewey's take in the Washington Post here. Update: And the winner is... geocache!
TOPICS: Dictionaries, Fun, Words
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When I was studying Spanish and had gotten to the point where our assignments consisted of reading real books, I kept a well-thumbed dictionary on my desk. Every paragraph seemed to contain several words that I had to look up, which was tedious and slow. Our wise teacher kept telling us that we didn't need to do that—you don't actually have to know what every word means to understand the text. Continue reading...
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Baseball Lingo, from "Cup of Coffee" to "Southpaw"

With the baseball season underway, the sport's colorful lingo comes to the fore once again. Our own Ben Zimmer talked to KUOW-Seattle about the origins of some baseball terms, like "cup of coffee," "hitterish," and "southpaw." Catch the interview here.
TOPICS: Fun, Word Origins, Words
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Which Word Should Go Into the Next Scrabble Dictionary?

Hasbro, the company that makes Scrabble, is revising the game's official dictionary, and they're letting Scrabble fans pick one of the words to include. Some worthy contenders include zen, ew, and bestie. You can join in the Scrabble Word Showdown on Facebook here, and check out the authoritative take on Hasbro's contest from Stefan Fatsis on Slate here.
TOPICS: Dictionaries, Fun, Words
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With the teams competing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament whittled down to the Final Four, "March Madness" is coming to a close. (Actually, as has been the case for a few decades now, March Madness extends into the beginning of April, when the semifinal and final games are played.) In honor of college hoops, I've selected a "Final Four" of important terms associated with the tournament. Continue reading...
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