Visual Thesaurus subscriber "Curious Cat" has struck a nerve. Commenting on a Word Routes column last month about annoying words, "CC" wrote:

My bugbear: "No problem" in response to "Thank you" in restaurants. "You're welcome" is disappearing in this context. I assume that my business is not a problem.

Continue reading...
These scenes from my life in Boston — when my wife Carol and I lived there many years ago and during our recent work there on "More Words That Make a Difference" — employ a number of words that appear in that book, with illustrative sentences from the Atlantic Monthly. Continue reading...
When I read in the New York Times recently that everyone is going quant in "the Age of Metrics," my first thought was, "Is that anything like Sarah Palin going rogue?" What's going on with these new ways of going, anyhow? Continue reading...
The latest selection for 2009 Word of the Year comes from the good people at Merriam-Webster. Unlike other dictionary publishers that anoint an annual word, Merriam-Webster bases its winner and runners-up on actual user lookups to its online dictionary and thesaurus. So instead of the novelties selected by its competitors (distracted driving from Webster's New World, unfriend from New Oxford American), Merriam-Webster's choice is an old word that worked its way into current events: admonish. Continue reading...
Wendalyn Nichols, editor of the Copyediting newsletter, offers useful tips to copy editors and anyone else who prizes clear and orderly writing. Here she looks at some pitfalls in using the word proscribe. Continue reading...
The New Oxford American Dictionary has announced its Word of the Year for 2009: it's unfriend, defined as "to remove someone as a 'friend' on a social networking site such as Facebook." Readers of this space will be quite familiar with the term, as I discussed it along with similar un-verbs on Word Routes in May and then again in September as a followup to my On Language column in the New York Times Magazine, "The Age of Undoing." It's nice to feel ahead of the curve on this one, but truth be told, unfriending has been going on for many years. Continue reading...

University of Illinois linguist Dennis Baron explains how a simple grammar lesson can lead to a clash of civilizations.

Everybody knows that a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. It's one of those undeniable facts of daily life, a fact we seldom question until we meet up with a case that doesn't quite fit the way we're used to viewing things. Continue reading...
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