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CNN Money has announced that it will "steer clear" of the word sequestration, along with its snappier cousin sequester, in reporting on Capitol Hill budget negotiations, branding it esoteric jargon. That might be a good move, considering that, according to a recent poll, two-thirds of voters don't even know what sequester means. How did we get saddled with this bit of Beltway lingo?  Continue reading...
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Jan Schreiber, a noted poet, critic, and translator, writes: "It's an old phenomenon — reaching for the fancy word instead of the plain one, and coming up with a word whose meaning is not quite what the speaker intended. We often smile at those who, as H. W. Fowler memorably put it, 'go wordfowling with a blunderbuss.'"  Continue reading...
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Adverbs end in -ly and modify verbs. At least, that's what we're taught in elementary school. It's a fair start, but we soon learn that adverbs are more complicated than the rule implies. For a start, adverbs can also modify adjectives, other adverbs, phrases, and clauses. And they don't have to end in -ly, either.  Continue reading...
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The "Today Show" visited Boston on Friday, and as part of the show they included a segment on the accent of the city, so immediately recognizable and so often imitated (but rarely well!). And who did they turn to for background on how the accent came to be? Our very own Ben Zimmer.  Continue reading...
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In advance of Valentine's Day, the dating site Match.com released some survey results indicating that good grammar is something that both men and women on the dating scene use to judge their potential mates. That finding led to a joke on Saturday Night Live that was supposed to illustrate "good grammar" but, ironically enough, failed to.  Continue reading...
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Branding expert Nancy Friedman has been seeing a lot of X's and O's lately, "in the breezy, cozy, kissy-huggy names of companies and products." And she says that "Valentine's Day seems the perfect occasion to cuddle up with them."  Continue reading...
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I desperately wanted piano lessons as a child. Too bad for me my parents couldn't afford them. Instead, I watched enviously as my classmates carried their music books under their arms and marched off to meet their piano teachers. Why couldn't I do that?  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 Displaying 8-14 of 26 Articles