Mike Pope has been a technical writer and editor for nearly 30 years. He has worked at Microsoft and Amazon, and currently works at Tableau Software. You can read more at Mike's Web Log and Evolving English II.
Some years ago, there was a series of stories in a magazine about dates that did not go well. In one of the stories, a woman met her date at a Mexican restaurant. When they ordered dinner, her companion asked for tortillas, but he pronounced the word "dor-dee-yas." Although he did not know it, the hapless gentleman's pronunciation proved to be a shibboleth that meant there would be no second date, and got me thinking about other encounters we may have with shibboleths in our personal experience. Continue reading...
Last August, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries published a list of words that they were adding to their dictionaries. Among them was neckbeard, which is listed as "A growth of hair on a man's neck." But this self-describing definition is not why the term was added. More interestingly, the term connotes someone with "poor grooming habits" and who's "socially inept." Continue reading...
Topics: Language Usage Words
I occasionally teach a class about using Microsoft Word. In one of the class exercises, students are asked to format a page, and the instructions tell them to "outdent" a heading. After I got several questions about that each class, I realized that lots of people have no idea what the term means. Continue reading...
Topics: Language Usage Words
Anyone who works for a large organization (or maybe even a small one) knows that certain phrases grab people's imagination and spread through the organization. If you're like me, you go to meetings and presentations and expressions keep popping up, which is very distracting — you try to listen to what the speaker is saying, but you end up paying more attention to how they're saying it. Continue reading...
When you visit your bank's website or enter a credit-card number, you've probably noticed that in the browser's address box, the URL begins with https. The "S" stands for "secure," and the security technology your browser uses for that "S" represents one of the great inventions in the history of secrets. In this piece I'll walk you through some of the terms of that rich field. Continue reading...
I am guessing that the average electrician doesn't realize how much history is knocking about in his or her toolbox. Volt, amp, ohm, watt—these electrical units are all eponyms, derived from the names of pioneers in the field. Let's have a tour. Continue reading...
When I was studying Spanish and had gotten to the point where our assignments consisted of reading real books, I kept a well-thumbed dictionary on my desk. Every paragraph seemed to contain several words that I had to look up, which was tedious and slow. Our wise teacher kept telling us that we didn't need to do that—you don't actually have to know what every word means to understand the text. Continue reading...
1 2 3 Displaying 1-7 of 19 Articles

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.