"Swine flu is the new Susan Boyle of search terms," announces a headline in Australia's The Age. The Scottish singing sensation was last week's news: people are no longer busy conducting online searches for Ms. Boyle (or for her favored expression, gobsmacked). Instead, they're trying to discover anything they can about swine flu, now that health authorities are warning of a possible pandemic. Let's take a look at how the disease got its name. Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

A Million Words? Not So Fast...

Visual Thesaurus editor Ben Zimmer explains to Washington Post Book World why the claim that English is adding its millionth word lacks credibility.

Forbes.com is running a special report on neologisms — all about how and why new words enter the language. And the Visual Thesaurus family is well-represented, with featured articles by editor Ben Zimmer and contributor Mark Peters. Continue reading...
Once again we have asked writer and educator Bob Greenman to select some words to mull over from his latest guide to vocabulary enrichment, More Words That Make a Difference, co-authored with his wife Carol. The book illustrates word usage with passages from the Atlantic Monthly, and Bob takes a look here at words used by one of the Atlantic's most famous editors. Continue reading...
Unless you've been living under an Internet-free rock, you've probably seen the enthralling video of Scotland's Susan Boyle singing on the television show Britain's Got Talent. According to the latest numbers, the video of Boyle's performance has already attracted more than 100 million online views. But it's not only her singing prowess that is attracting worldwide attention: it has also been reported that "Web searches for the term gobsmacked spiked after Boyle used the British slang meaning utterly astonished when describing her reaction to newfound widespread acclaim." Continue reading...
Today's Mailbag Friday question comes all the way from Dakar, Senegal. Jodi W. asks: "What's up with texted? As in, 'I texted her yesterday.' Is it a real word?" Continue reading...
While most of us view April 15th as the day the tax man cometh (and our income goeth), it marked a more auspicious occasion in 1755. That was the day Samuel Johnson published his massive two-volume, 42,773-word dictionary of the English language. Mim Harrison, founding editor of Levenger Press, takes a look back. Continue reading...
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