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My wife and I were out Christmas shopping last week and came home with an armload of classic holiday DVDs that we somehow didn't already own. She'd gathered up every title you probably know, and we spent a couple of evenings watching our way through the pile. During this latter-day review of the holiday favorites of our childhood, it struck me that there were a surprising number of terms and phrases that had become familiar either directly from these Christmas classics or from their sources. Continue reading...
Topics: Vocabulary Fun Words
Kitty. Tron. Legit. All these words appeared in the 2011 edition of the yearbook I sponsor. Students used these as slang; all three were used to describe something cool. Aside from legit, which seems to have been around for a while, I'm not sure the other two stuck. Continue reading...
Earlier this week, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich emerged from a powwow with Donald Trump, and they had an announcement to make. Trump told reporters that, at Gingrich's request, he was starting a program for disadvantaged New York schoolchildren, modeled on his competitive reality TV show "The Apprentice." "We're going to be picking ten young, wonderful children, and we're going to make them apprenti," Trump said. That's right, he said apprenti. Continue reading...
As more and more people join in the fun of the Vocabulary.com Challenge, we're always looking for ways to make the experience more "social." Sure, you might think you're doing well with your vocabulary improvement, but how do you stack up against others playing the Challenge? Recently we made some improvements to the leaderboard that you'll see on the right side of your screen when you're playing the Vocabulary.com Challenge, just to get your competitive juices flowing even more! Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

What's a Misle?

Have you ever been misled by the spelling of a word into thinking that it's pronounced differently? Like, say, thinking that "misled" is pronounced like "mizzled"? Now you know what a "misle" is. On the Chronicle blog Lingua Franca, linguist Geoffrey Pullum investigates, inspired by a colleague's assumption that "biopic" rhymes with "myopic." Read Pullum's post here.
Oh, "effect" and "affect" -- why can't one of you be a noun and the other a verb? That would make life so much easier. But no, you are each a noun AND a verb and thus the inspiration for much head-scratching. Continue reading...

Dennis Baron, English professor at the University of Illinois and author of the blog The Web of Language, writes:

The Web of Language Word of the Year for 2011 is "volatility." Volatility may not be trendy like occupy or Arab Spring, but it's the one word that characterizes the bipolar mood of 2011 in everything from politics to economics. Continue reading...
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