With the deepening of "The Great Recession" (or whatever we end up calling the current crisis), our language continues to reflect the tough economic times. Here is a primer on recession-related terminology that has been circulating in recent months, as we struggle to put the global financial uncertainty into words.
Among the idioms of modern American English, few are as puzzling to unpack as the expression "the whole nine yards," meaning 'the full extent of something.' Though it is of relatively recent vintage, etymologists have yet to discover a credible historical explanation for what the "nine yards" might refer to — there are a multitude of theories, some quite fanciful, but none are supported by documentary evidence. In the past few years, however, some significant progress has been made to unearth early examples of the idiom, which may eventually help to smoke out where those "nine yards" originally came from.
American sports fans are currently engrossed in the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, a.k.a. "March Madness." Even President Obama filled out a Tournament bracket
with his projected winners in the single-elimination format. So far, if you picked the favorites to advance (as Obama mostly did), your bracket is doing nicely: only one team (Arizona) has pulled off a significant upset to get into the "Sweet Sixteen." In betting parlance, chalk
has predominated in the Tournament. But how did chalk
come to be the term associated with favored teams?
Teachers all over look to Gerald G. Duffy, EdD, for his expert advice on how to teach reading, and part and parcel of Duffy's reading strategies is his focus on vocabulary. In this excerpt from his best-selling text Explaining Reading
, Duffy demonstrates how semantic maps can help students visualize how word meanings can be categorized.
Maria C. of Jersey City, NJ writes in with today's Mailbag Friday question: "My coworker always uses the word reticent
when he really means reluctant
. Isn't he using the wrong word?"
Bob Greenman, an award-winning writer, educator, and speaker, has written two outstanding guides to vocabulary enrichment: Words That Make a Difference
and More Words That Make a Difference
, with illustrative passages from the New York Times
and the Atlantic Monthly
, respectively. We asked Bob to pick some choice words from the second volume (co-authored with his wife, Carol), and he came up with a trio of words exposing the seamy underbelly of Old Hollywood.