A warm welcome to our newest regular contributor, Mike Pope. As a longtime technical writer and editor at Microsoft, Mike has developed some special know-how in that favorite techie shorthand, the acronym. Here Mike explains the ins and outs of acronyms and initialisms. Continue reading...
Topics: Language Words Usage
Merrill Perlman explains why journalists should appreciate the special connotations of seemingly synonymous words. Continue reading...
It's fair to say that when it comes to online discourse we live in the Golden Age of Snark. (That's snark as in "snide commentary," not the imaginary animal of Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem "The Hunting of the Snark.") When every statement you make is open to sarcastic rebuttals, sometimes the best policy is to ridicule yourself before someone else has the chance. Nowhere is this more true than Twitter, where the convention of the "hashtag" has been pressed into the service of self-mockery. Continue reading...
Topics: Fun Language Online

Blog Excerpts

The Rise (and Fall) of "Awesome"

Have you noticed how the word awesome once meant "awe-inspiring" or "extraordinarily good," but now just means, well, "good"? It's a case of semantic inflation, according to The Economist's Robert Lane Greene. Read his fascinating exploration of the word's plunge into mediocrity in Intelligent Life magazine here.
Last week, the College Board reported that SAT reading scores have reached an all-time low. The Class of 2011's SAT reading scores dipped another three points from the previous year (down to 497), and that makes it a whopping 33-point drop since 1972. The bleak news should leave teachers and administrators taking a hard look at how we are preparing students (or not) for the skills that are tested on the reading section of standardized exams. Continue reading...
To be called a nerd these days isn't such a bad thing -- it can even be a statement of pride, a way of owning up to an all-consuming passionate interest, particularly in something technological or pop-cultural (or both). It has been reclaimed as a positive label in much the same way as geek has. The cartoonish '80s movie The Revenge of the Nerds turned out to have some prescience, as nerdy types from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg have come to rule so much of 21st-century life. So it's only natural to wonder, where did the word nerd come from? Continue reading...
Earlier this week we featured an excerpt from Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis, an entertaining look at the world of competitive Scrabble, now published in a tenth anniversary edition with a special afterword on the latest Scrabble developments. Here we present another excerpt from the afterword, about the raging debates over what words to include in the official Scrabble dictionary. Continue reading...
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