How do our words relate to our thoughts? What does language tell us about human nature? What are we doing, language-wise, when we swear, use innuendo or name our babies? Harvard professor Steven Pinker examines these questions -- and much more -- in his terrific new book, The Stuff of Thought. We had a fascinating conversation with him about his research into language and cognition: Continue reading...

Dept. of Word Lists

Cheese Words

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Chef Terrance Brennan is the founder of Artisanal Premium Cheese, a company that practices the fine art of affinage -- the age-old craft of maturing and aging cheese to achieve peak flavor. He's also something of a cheese revolutionary -- a chef who's helped Americans discover and appreciate the sublime magic of handcrafted artisanal cheese (we'll get to that word in a minute). What better person to ask about cheese words?

Paste. "The body within the rind of the cheese, what the French call the 'pate.' In other words, the interior of the cheese."

Farmstead. "Cheese milked and produced from the same farm."

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Wordsmith.org is something of an institution on the Internet, an online community started by computer-engineer-turned-linguist Anu Garg back in 1994 that now reaches more than 600,000 subscribers in 200 countries with its daily A.Word.A.Day newsletter. This email is more than just a new word every day: Anu also adds a daily, delicious quote from his extensive literary readings to inspire, challenge -- and surprise -- us. The Visual Thesaurus is proud to sponsor A.Word.A.Day and delighted to speak with Anu about his own, latest, book, on "the hidden lives and strange origins of words" entitled, The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two. Our conversation: Continue reading...
Words like "spacesuit," "blast off" and "robot" weren't born in science -- but in science fiction. To learn more, we called Jeff Prucher, the editor of Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, a rich and fascinating compendium of words invented and popularized by the genre. We spoke to him about science fiction's impact on English: Continue reading...
"How do I get my word in the dictionary?" This is a question that lexicographers in the Lounge and elsewhere are asked more often than you might expect. While it might be unkind to characterize the sort of person who asks the question, we hope it will be instructive to describe how new words actually make their way into dictionaries. That, in turn, should reveal why there are probably many better things to do in life than getting one's word in the dictionary. By doing some of them, you might get your word in anyway. Continue reading...
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