Ben Zimmer is executive editor of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus. He is language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to his regular "Word Routes" column here, he contributes to the group weblog Language Log. He is also the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society.
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For the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I explored the peculiar origins of the word boondoggle, which took a strange trip from the world of Boy Scouts to the world of politics 80 years ago. Continue reading...
At the second Republican presidential debate, held last night at the Reagan Presidential Library and aired on CNN, the candidates jockeyed for the attention of primary voters. There are many ways of judging their performances, but what better way than to analyze their choice of words? Continue reading...
In a rapid-response survey of candidates' vocabulary in the first GOP debate, broadcast last night on Fox News, Vocabulary.com analyzed the transcript to identify each candidate's most relevant vocabulary word. And the data-driven approach yielded some interesting results about the candidates' language use. Continue reading...
For Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at the origins of an expression that turns nervousness and apprehension into a jokey malady: the heebie-jeebies. It turns out we can pin down not just the coiner but the very day that he coined the word. Continue reading...
With the boxing movie "Southpaw" opening, it's a good time to ponder where the term "southpaw" came from as an epithet for a left-hander. Baseball and boxing have both used the term for a long time to label lefty athletes, but which came first? Continue reading...
The news coming out of Greece these days can be downright perplexing, leading many in the news media to recycle the old phrase, "It's all Greek to me." I talked to NPR's Weekend All Things Considered about the origin of the expression. Continue reading...
For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at the clownish roots of the word bozo. While the image of TV's Bozo the Clown is familiar to many generations of American youth, how did Bozo get his name in the first place? The answer may lie in vaudeville. Continue reading...
1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 335 Articles