For the second year in a row, the Visual Thesaurus helped out the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses with its annual Spelling Bee to support the work of independent literary publishers. Once again, the VT supplied the words that challenged some of the leading lights of the New York publishing world. Continue reading...
In this Sunday's "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine, I delve into the history of the title Ms. used as a marriage-neutral title for women. As I revealed here on Word Routes back in June, the earliest known proposal for the modern use of Ms. appeared in the Springfield (Mass.) Sunday Republican on November 10, 1901. And as the proposal reemerged over the ensuing decades, two nagging questions kept getting asked: how do you pronounce it, and what does it stand for? Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

Obama the Verb

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From the blogosphere comes news that President Obama's name has become an eponym, but not in English. In Japanese, Obama has transformed into obamu — a verb that means, according to one blogger, "to ignore inexpedient and inconvenient facts or realities." Continue reading...

My wife recently spotted the following perplexing line on Crabtree & Evelyn's website, advertising their hand soap:

Our gentle cleansing liquid soaps are pH-balanced and soap-free.

That's right, they're selling soap-free soap. I've heard of a "nothing-burger," but "nothing-soap"? Continue reading...
Yesterday we talked to sixth-grader Nicholas Rushlow, who finished 17th in the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee. At his home in Pickerington, Ohio, Nicholas maintains an impressive "word wall," festooned with many of the fascinating words he has learned while practicing for spelling bees. We asked Nicholas to share some of his favorites. And he has also created a Community Spelling Bee for us with even more "killer" words! Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

The Language of Food

Stanford linguist Dan Jurafsky has launched a fascinating new blog called The Language of Food. So far he's posted meticulous studies of the words entrée, ketchup, and dessert. Check it out here.
We were thrilled to learn that sixth-grader Nicholas Rushlow of Pickerington, Ohio, who placed 17th in last spring's Scripps National Spelling Bee, is an avid user of the Visual Thesaurus. In fact, he used the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee as a training tool in preparing for the Nationals. And now as he gets ready to compete again during this school year, he's taking advantage of our new Community Spelling Bee feature to customize his practice lists. We caught up with Nicholas and his mother Michele Rushlow to find out what it takes to be one of the nation's top spellers. Continue reading...
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