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Blog Excerpts

Obsolete Words Worth Reviving?

Some words that have fallen into disuse are due for a revival. Recently, the blog Jezebel compiled "18 uncommon or obsolete words that we think may have died early," including curglaff ("the shock felt in bathing when one first plunges into the cold water") and resistentialism (the seemingly spiteful behavior shown by inanimate objects). Check out the complete list here.
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For a word that first showed up in English around 1300, livery has managed to remain surprisingly current, appearing in a variety of contexts. One sense of livery borrowed from British English has particular resonance in branding and design.  Continue reading...
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Jonathon Owen is a copy editor and student of linguistics who "holds the paradoxical view that it's possible to be a prescriptivist and descriptivist simultaneously." Here, he investigates the word towards, a favorite target of American editors, who love to lop off that supposedly superfluous -s.  Continue reading...
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A recent blog post decried the use of and/or. Rich Adin makes the case that the conjunction is inaccurate. This, at least, is an improvement over the popular argument that and/or is "hideous" or "monstrous," but it isn't entirely true, either.  Continue reading...
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Scalawag, "a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel," is a fun word to say. It sounds like something a pirate on the high seas might call a rival. In fact, it originated in western New York in the 1830s, and a young genealogy buff recently turned up some fascinating early evidence on the word when he was investigating an ancestor.  Continue reading...
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This is a topical word: the cardinal electors have just spent two days locked into their pressure-cooker, the Sistine Chapel, to determine who will bear the keys of St. Peter. They were all sequestered in the Vatican, that enclave in the middle of the Eternal City, locked in debate and prayer and voting. Literally locked in: the doors of the Sistine Chapel were locked.  Continue reading...
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Etymology — the roots (or, etymologically speaking, seeds) of words — can sound like a pretty dry pursuit if you aren't a word farmer by trade. But knowing a word's derivation has all kinds of benefits. It can make you a better, more nuanced communicator, of course, and if you happen to find words fascinating and beautiful, it can heighten your, ahem, textual pleasure.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 Displaying 8-14 of 24 Articles