With this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament just around the corner, there is no better time to consider that peculiar, vowel-heavy brand of English known as "crosswordese." Think you're a first-rate cruciverbalist? Quick: can you tell an anoa from an unau? Continue reading...
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Yes We Can Learn English

In Japan, the new craze among ESL students is learning English from the speeches of Barack Obama. The Wall Street Journal reports.

The American Dialect Society wants to know what you think the Word of the Decade is. Which word best sums up the years from 2000 to 2009? Read the call for nominations below. Continue reading...
Every writer knows the feeling: you've just released a carefully edited piece of prose into circulation, and when you take another look you cringe at the sight of a typo that you missed. With online writing, typos can very often be fixed without anyone even noticing. Printed errors usually require red-faced corrections. But don't feel too bad: imagine if your typos were etched in granite for all to see! Continue reading...
Last week we interviewed the irrepressible Roy Blount, Jr. about his latest book, Alphabet Juice, an A-to-Z compendium of his musings on the glory of the English language. In this excerpt from the book's opening chapter, Blount considers the scholarly theory of the arbitrary relation between words and meanings, to which he firmly responds: "Arbitrary, schmarbitrary." Continue reading...
Today marks the bicentennial of two of the most influential minds of the modern age: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Besides sharing a birthday, Lincoln and Darwin also shared an eloquence with the English language, despite the very different prose styles of their work. In a new book, Angels and Ages, Adam Gopnik argues that this shared eloquence allowed them to impart their world-changing visions. But what about on a more basic level, that of the individual word? What lasting contributions did Lincoln and Darwin make to the English lexicon? Continue reading...
Recently we had the opportunity to talk to Roy Blount, Jr. about his entertaining new book Alphabet Juice, subtitled "The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory." In this idiosyncratic dictionary, Blount distills a lifelong love affair with the English language into pithy observations on everything from amazing ("Can't anybody say 'wonderful' or 'splendid' or even 'far-out' anymore?") to zoology ("Pronounced zo-ology. Not zoo-ology. Look at the letters. Count the o's"). Blount told us about some of his inspirations for the book and explained how language can be loose without being imprecise. Continue reading...
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