Word Routes Exploring the pathways of our lexicon

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While Americans this week have marked the sad anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, there is a more pleasant commemoration going on as well. On Nov. 23, 1963, the day after Kennedy died, the BBC first broadcast the science-fiction series "Doctor Who." The franchise is still going strong 50 years later. To celebrate, let's look at one of the lexical contributions of "Doctor Who": the name for the nefarious alien race, "Dalek." Continue reading...
We all know the old fairy tale: Goldilocks enters the house of the Three Bears and samples their porridge, their chairs, and their beds. Each time she finds one item that's "just right." In recent years, the familiar story has been making the rounds, with the word "Goldilocks" showing up in some unexpected contexts, from astronomy to economy. Continue reading...
The persistent glitchiness of HealthCare.gov, the website implementing the Affordable Care Act, has given us much time to ponder that peculiar little word, glitch. As it happens, some new research on the word brings its origin, most likely from Yiddish, into a sharper perspective. Continue reading...
With the government shutdown over and the default crisis averted, what many commentators called a "game of chicken" has finally ended on Capitol Hill. In my latest column for the Wall Street Journal, I take a look at how political stare-downs earned this appellation, and how chickens became animalistic symbols of cowardice in the first place. Continue reading...
Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke foiled the predictions of many analysts that September would usher in tapering, or the gradual slowdown of the bond-buying policy that the Fed instituted to keep long-term interest rates low. Those analysts even had renamed the month Septaper, but now they're looking ahead to a possible Octaper. After that, it gets a bit harder to come up with clever month-blends. Continue reading...
The situation in Syria has revived a number of well-worn foreign-policy phrases, from "boots on the ground" to "slam-dunks" and "smoking guns." As the American response to the conflict has involved far more in the way of words than deeds, it's worth taking a closer look at the words used by officials and commentators, no matter how hackneyed. Continue reading...
TOPICS: Politics, Usage, Words
"We have to turn the page on the bubble-and-bust mentality," President Obama said in a recent weekly address. After the economic ruin of the housing bubble, it's hard to argue with that sentiment. But "bubbles" have long been with us — the metaphor of the bubble has been applied to fragile financial schemes for nearly three centuries, originating as a literary device. Continue reading...
TOPICS: Word Origins, Words
1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 306 Articles