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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The American Dialect Society made its 25th annual selection for Word of the Year, and for the first time the winner was actually a Twitter hashtag: #blacklivesmatter. Even though the socially conscious slogan is formed by combining three words, as a hashtag it was converted into something linguistically innovative, attracting the attention of the assorted language scholars who gathered for the vote at the society's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. Continue reading...
Greetings from Portland, Oregon, where the American Dialect Society is holding its annual conference. On Thursday, in my capacity as chair of the society's New Words Committee, I presided over the nominating session for various categories in our Word of the Year selection. Continue reading...
It's time once again for the annual look back at the noteworthy words of the past year. Did you indulge in any manspreading or Columbusing this year? Were you concerned about dark money or plastigomerate? Here's a veritable vortex of words that rose to prominence in 2014. Continue reading...
For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at a word with an origin story that seems too good to be true: grog, an alcoholic concoction, typically of rum and water, that has been making sailors groggy since the 18th century. Continue reading...
In the latest installment of the Slate podcast "Lexicon Valley," I presented the hosts Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield with a bit of a mystery. Where did the expression "get one's goat" come from? Theories abound, but hard evidence of the phrase's early use has only recently come to light. Continue reading...
For my latest appearance on Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast, I quizzed the hosts Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield about a five-letter word that seemed to spring out of nowhere in online usage about a decade ago but in fact has roots that are centuries old: snark. Continue reading...
Is there any point in remaining "spoiler-free," steering clear of any crucial plot points of movies or television shows you haven't seen yet? That's the question raised by Netflix in its new "Living with Spoilers" campaign, and it set me off on a search for the roots of the "spoiler" in my latest column for the Wall Street Journal. Continue reading...
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