During my appearance on WNYC's "The Leonard Lopate Show" yesterday to talk about Sarah Palin's much-ridiculed use of the word refudiate, I found myself in the odd position of defending Warren Gamaliel Harding, one of the least admired presidents in American history. In the commentary on Palin, Harding was revived as a point of comparison, particularly for his use of two memorable words: normalcy and bloviate. As I said on the show, I'd argue that Harding has gotten a bad rap on both counts. Continue reading...
The dust has settled a bit since last week's Refudiate-Gate, when the blogosphere went into a tizzy after Sarah Palin used the word refudiate in a Twitter update — and then defended her coinage by likening herself to Shakespeare. Now that we've gotten the predictably overheated reactions from the left and the right out of the way, let's take a look at this particular Palinism with a calmer perspective. Continue reading...
Just in time for Sunday's season premiere of "Mad Men," my latest "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine considers how authentically the show represents the speech of the 1960s. The creators of the AMC series, led by head honcho Matthew Weiner, are obsessive about getting the details of language right, just like all the other details of the show. But fans can be equally obsessive, on the lookout for the smallest linguistic anachronisms. Continue reading...

Wendalyn Nichols, editor of the Copyediting newsletter, writes:

Recently on the Copyediting blog, I made a comment about Flag Day, saying we celebrated it rather than observed it. This was actually a follow-up to an earlier comment about Memorial Day, when I noted that it was to be observed rather than celebrated. Continue reading...
The new film The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, owes an obvious debt of gratitude to The Who, even though the band's music doesn't appear on the soundtrack. The title is lifted from a classic song from The Who's 1965 debut album, which also served as the title of a 1979 documentary about the band. Discerning readers will notice a small but important difference: the song and the documentary were spelled "The Kids Are Alright." Did Cholodenko "correct" The Who's spelling? Continue reading...
What happens when paleontologists get together for drinks and brainstorm for names of dinosaur species? They come up with Mojoceratops, inspired by the mystical, magical mojo. And with the publication of a paper in the Journal of Paleontology this week, the name is official. Continue reading...
The latest quarterly update of the Oxford English Dictionary's online revision project covers the alphabetical range Rh to rococoesque, and it includes a fascinatingly complex entry for a seemingly simple word: rock, used as a verb. From the rocking of cradles in Old English sources to the rocking of microphones in rap lyrics, this entry has it all. Continue reading...
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