Blog Excerpts

On the Trail of "Wombat"

How the word "wombat" entered the English language turns out to be a surprisingly complex story. Australian linguist David Nash tells the tale here.

A blog commenter recently described the linguistic situation in her household as "a mixmash of English and German." As she later explained, the word mixmash was invented by her daughters to describe their experiences growing up bilingual. Now, mixmash is not a word you'll find in any dictionary, but it's easy enough to appreciate it as a mash-up of mix and (mish)mash. It's a wonderful example of how speakers of English are constantly mixing and mashing the lexicon, and yet somehow we manage to understand each other just fine. Continue reading...

Last night an unusual event happened at the White House. Chief Justice John Roberts re-administered the presidential oath of office to Barack Obama, a day and a half after they had performed the same ritual rather shakily in the inaugural ceremony. White House counsel Gregory B. Craig explained: "We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday. But the oath appears in the Constitution itself, and out of an abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time."

What was that one out-of-sequence word? Faithfully. Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

Inaugural Words

The New York Times has a fascinating interactive graphic showing word usage in inaugural addresses from Washington to Obama. Check it out here.

Barack Obama gives his inaugural address today, but on Sunday he gave a speech that previewed the main event. "Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead," Obama said, "I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time." This line echoed his victory speech last November: "I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead." Is Obama misusing enormity, or is he inaugurating a semantic change? Continue reading...

In one of the final press briefings from the Bush White House, counselor to the president Ed Gillespie used some peculiar wording yesterday to describe the current mood of his boss:

You know, I would say that he's gotten a little more winsome. I remember somebody asking me back in, like, September, you know, things must be — things must be getting winsome. And I thought, you know, those of us who work here wish it were a little more winsome sometimes.

Say what? Continue reading...
Greetings, everyone! I've just come back from San Francisco, where I attended the American Dialect Society's annual meeting (held in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America). As is the custom, the linguists and lexicographers in attendance took a break from their scholarly presentations to have some fun selecting the Word of the Year for 2008. This time around, bailout emerged as a powerful frontrunner, and sure enough it ultimately proved to be the winner. Continue reading...
Topics: Vocabulary Words
1 2 Displaying 1-7 of 12 Articles

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.