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Although we can take inspiration from stories where "failure is not an option," engineers think a lot about situations in which it very much is an option. Certainly in the world of computers, failure is never far away, and consequently there is some interesting vocabulary around anticipating and managing that failure.  Continue reading...
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When I was in elementary school, and was being taught the difference between fact and opinion, I wondered how to classify statements like "There are 51 states in the United States." It wasn't true, so it wasn't a fact, but on the other hand, it didn't seem to involve the kind of judgment that we were learning to identify with opinions.  Continue reading...
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The long-running battle between descriptivists and prescriptivists involves many arguments about whether particular points of usage are right or wrong. Plenty of arguments boil down to "Just because everybody does it doesn't make it right!" I've occasionally asked, "So what would make it right?" but I've never received a real answer.  Continue reading...
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In this month's crossword, we have a quotation from a famous writer who was born on this day. Figure it out and you could win a Visual Thesaurus T-shirt!  Continue reading...
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On TIME Newsfeed, Katy Steinmetz wonders why Twitter has inspired "an army of fusion words," or portmanteaus — from "Twiplomacy" (Twitter diplomacy) to "Twitterati" (Twitter literati). Our own Ben Zimmer has some ideas.  Continue reading...
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Much like the government, the English spelling system is a popular punching bag. People love to kvetch about its inconsistencies and exceptions, lamenting the near-impossible task of learning to spell.  Continue reading...
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Figuring out how to teach poetry is particularly troublesome, and may be ruining some poor teacher's time on the beach at this very moment. The threshold for frustration over poetry seems to be extremely low, indeed, judging from the groans and complaints from both sides of the teacher's desk.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 Displaying 1-7 of 24 Articles