In Sunday's Boston Globe I fill in for Jan Freeman, who writes a regular language column called "The Word." My topic is a silly new word that appears in the movie "Kung Fu Panda": skadoosh. It came from the fertile mind of Jack Black, voice of Po the Panda, who was inspired by an equally silly old slang expression, 23 skidoo. And skidoo probably came from scadoodle, which in turn is a variant of skedaddle. Whew! Continue reading...
The "Letters to the Editor" section of the Los Angeles Times has featured some heated discussion about what kind of vocabulary is suitable for printing in a newspaper. And no, this doesn't have anything to do with the "seven dirty words" famously satirized by the late lamented George Carlin. Instead, it's about some moderately challenging vocab items that you might expect to find on a Visual Thesaurus word list. Continue reading...

Welcome to a new feature on Word Routes: Mailbag Friday! This is where we answer your questions about the origins and evolving usage of words and phrases. If you've got a burning question, just click here and we'll do our best to address it in a future installment of Mailbag Friday.

First up is Lisa W. of Smyrna, DE, who writes: "Our youngest son earned the nickname 'The Bamboozler' at an early age, for his uncanny ability to outwit his unsuspecting parents. That got me thinking, where does the word bamboozle come from?" Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

Pop Vs. Soda

Forget about red states and blue states... what really divides Americans is whether they call carbonated beverages pop or soda. (Or coke if you're in the South.) Check out the detailed maps on The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy to see where the battle lines are drawn on this contentious question.

Topics: Vocabulary Fun Words
The untimely passing of Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, has led many to reminisce about his lasting influence on political reporting. Some obituaries mentioned that Russert has been credited with popularizing the terms "red state" and "blue state," to refer to states favoring Republican or Democratic candidates. Though Russert's memorable analysis of the twists and turns of the 2000 presidential election no doubt played a significant role in popularizing the "red/blue state" designations, the history of the color coding is surprisingly complicated. Continue reading...
Two years ago, the International Astronomical Union voted to demote Pluto from planetary status, deciding that it was only a "dwarf planet." There was great uproar among fans of Pluto, even spawning a group calling themselves The Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet. The IAU held firm to its decision, though, and moved on to other nomenclatural issues. A term was needed to encompass Pluto and all Pluto-like objects on the fringes of the solar system out beyond Neptune. This week the IAU finally came up with an official term: plutoid. It's not the prettiest word, but it does the trick. Continue reading...
Hillary Clinton suspended her presidential campaign over the weekend, allowing Barack Obama to claim the mantle of "presumptive nominee" for the Democratic Party. Of course, many in the media had already bestowed that title on Obama the previous Tuesday, after the vaunted "superdelegates" gave him an insurmountable lead in the delegate count. John McCain achieved the same feat on the Republican side back in early February when Mitt Romney pulled out of the race, though it took another month for Mike Huckabee to withdraw and seal the deal on McCain's "presumptive" status. It's a word we hear every election cycle, but Word Routes reader Courtney S. asks, where does it come from? Continue reading...
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