As the United States celebrates Presidents' Day, it's a good time to mull over how we ended up calling the national leader "president" in the first place. Executive editor Ben Zimmer spoke to NPR's All Things Considered about the term's history. Continue reading...
Following a Wall Street Journal article poking gentle fun at a movement to strike overused words such as good, bad, and nice from student writing, Slate Senior Editor Gabriel Roth warned that a "reasonable pedagogical technique" had morphed into "perverse and deadly totalitarianism." For middle school English teachers, we suggest some middle ground. Continue reading...
This is the time of year where we revel in tradition, participating in rituals and using language that takes us "home for the holidays" whether we're physically traveling or not. But it's also a time to examine those traditions. Here, we put together some holiday-inspired columns and vocabulary lists that help us understand the origins of holiday language old and new. Continue reading...
On Minnesota Public Radio, our executive editor Ben Zimmer explored the problematic history of the word refugee, now frequently heard in media accounts of the European migration crisis. Continue reading...
Topics: Usage Words Politics
If you are a principal or other school leader, here are some ways you can make vocabulary learning a priority at your school by getting students excited about playing the Vocabulary Bowl. Continue reading...
Topics: Vocabulary Bowl

Celebrating Labor (and Labour) Day

On the first Monday in September, the United States observes Labor Day, while Canadians celebrate Labour Day. If you want to know why labour is the accepted spelling in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries like Canada, while Americans prefer labor (and color, favor, honor, humor, and neighbor), check out this classic Word Routes column by Ben Zimmer.
Topics: Words
We have all seen this tired loop of "instruction": distribute word list, have students look up words, ask students to use the words in original sentences. While encouraging usage is never a bad idea, it's not realistic to expect students to pivot from definition to usage without guidance. We suggest ditching (or at least delaying) the idea of originality and instead asking students to model their sentences on usage examples written by those people who are especially skilled with using words: professional writers. Continue reading...
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