Wendalyn Nichols, editor of the Copyediting newsletter, offers useful tips to copy editors and anyone else who prizes clear and orderly writing. Here she investigates a common colloquialism, "a whole nother..." Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

Word Routes on Bloggingheads

If you enjoy reading Visual Thesaurus editor Ben Zimmer's Word Routes column, you'll want to check out his appearance on Bloggingheads. Ben discusses many past Word Routes topics, from Ms. to jazz to Cronkiters, with his brother, science writer Carl Zimmer.
The fight over health care reform that has dominated American political discourse in recent months has often ended up as a fight about language. Let's take a look at some of the highly charged terms used by the supporters and opponents of President Obama's proposed health care initiatives. Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

Conflations

Fascinated by amalgamations like "green behind the ears"? How about "a wrench in the ointment" or "frothing at the bit"? Check out more of these idiom blends at Conflations: "Idiom conflation is a poetic art with a purpose."

Laura C. of Wantage, N.J. writes in with today's Mailbag Friday question:

Co-workers keep using the word caveat around work and it's driving me crazy. People will say, "This is a great plan, but the caveat is..." (meaning 'the hook or catch is...'). Sometimes they'll use it as a transitive verb: "Let's caveat that proposed media spend." Is this really acceptable?

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Earlier this week we spoke to Stephen Dodson, co-author of Uglier than a Monkey's Armpit, a compendium of curses and insults from around the world. By way of introduction to this lively and engaging book, here is a (lightly expurgated!) letter to readers from Stephen, musing on the boundless creativity of the "gems of abuse" he has collected. Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

"Fail" Ever Upwards

Last Sunday, Visual Thesaurus executive producer Ben Zimmer filled in for William Safire's "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine, writing all about the word fail in its current use as a noun and interjection. Hear Ben talk more about the success of fail in an interview on the NPR show Future Tense.
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