National party conventions are really about two things: painting the candidate you are supporting in the best possible light, and engaging in attacks on the opposition. Continue reading...
Captain America: Civil War is a hit film at the early summer box office, having recently surpassed 1 billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales. The film raises a lot of questions. A basic question can be answered well before that having to do with the language of the title: How can a War be Civil? Continue reading...
Topics: Media Usage Words
Alejandro González Iñárritu's The Revenant leads all films with 12 nominations for the 88th Academy Awards, and it has already racked up several Golden Globes. The movie has put the unusual word revenant on the tip of a lot of tongues, with many of us asking, "What the heck does it mean?" Continue reading...
In 1948, the American journalist and language chronicler H.L. Mencken wrote an essay for The New Yorker, "Video Verbiage," in which he analyzed the lingo of the fledgling medium of television. Several of the words he gathered are now obsolete: vaudeo ("televised vaudeville"), televiewers (now just "viewers"), blizzard head (an actress so blonde that the lighting has to be toned down). Others are with us still, including telegenic and telecast. Nearly 70 years after Mencken published his essay, television itself is undergoing a massive redefinition, and so is our TV lexicon. Continue reading...
Topics: Language Media Words
Writing in Sunday's Houston Chronicle, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg shone a spotlight on the hundreds of Houston students who got hooked on Vocabulary.com, as one "campus-wide obsession" turned into a recipe for academic success. Continue reading...
The public radio show "On the Media" notes that "in the age of Snowden and Manning, the term 'whistleblower' is increasingly present in our media. But where exactly did the word come from?" Brooke Gladstone talked to our executive editor Ben Zimmer for some historical background. Continue reading...
Last night, Jon Stewart announced that he will be retiring from Comedy Central's The Daily Show. We'll miss Stewart and his writing team for lots of reasons. But as dedicated vocabularians, we'll be especially sorry to see the end of Stewart's skewering of overhyped news through clever use of word blending, known as portmanteaus. Continue reading...
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