Sure, Star Wars launched plenty of original words—like Jedi and Wookiee. But what better way to observe National Star Wars Day on May the 4th than to brush up on existing words featured in the film series? The following lexicon will serve you well in any galaxy. Continue reading...
I live in the heart of a small lexical explosion—Boulder, Colorado, home to about 100,000 people (of whom 30,000 are university students), and about two dozen retail marijuana dispensaries. The lexical explosion is in the marketing vocabulary of a product that until recently, despite its being universally known and widely used, was contraband. Continue reading...
Earlier this year the Associated Press Stylebook issued one of its frequent updates. "Do not use ride-sharing" to refer to services such as Uber and Lyft, the stylebook counseled; instead, use the modifier ride-booking or ride-hailing. It was the AP's quixotic bid to stem the increasingly common use of sharing to refer to a wide range of activities that are not quite as selfless as the word share may suggest. Continue reading...
At the end of each year, while linguists and lexicographers cast votes for words of the year, I'm compiling a different list: the brand names that distilled the mood of the previous twelve months. To narrow the field, I add another criterion: the brand names must have linguistic or onomastic significance — onomastics being the study of names. Continue reading...
The old adage about American and England being "two nations divided by a common language" — wrongly attributed to George Bernard Shaw, who never said or wrote it — may still hold true in some quarters. But in the language of U.S. commerce, it's fast losing its relevance. Terms that once seemed quaintly Olde English to Americans — from "bespoke" to "stockist" — are fast becoming the new normal. Continue reading...

"What was your latest preneur?"

It's one of the most quoted lines in the 2010 movie The Social Network. The line is proof that -preneur has bid adieu to its entre- associate and become a word part with independent staying power. Continue reading...

Blog Excerpts

"Staycation," "Bleisure," and Other Made-Up Travel Words

Is the travel industry particularly susceptible to making up words like "bleisure" (combining "business" and "leisure") and "staycation" (for a stay-at-home vacation)? Associated Press travel reporter Beth J. Harpaz investigates — with help from our own Ben Zimmer, who says that such neologisms "come in handy in a business sector where there's often a need to come up with clever marketing spin." Read the AP article here.
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