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Some stories about word origins recall the old Italian saying, se è non vero, è ben trovato: even if it is not true, it is well invented. One such too-good-to-check story involves the sporting usage of upset, which, it is said, came to be because an unfavored horse named Upset beat the great thoroughbred Man o' War.  Continue reading...
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My triplets turned 19 this year — a family milestone that set my rapidly graying head spinning: How did they go from fitting inside my belly to being three such enormous teenagers? How did I survive the early years on so little sleep? What on earth did I do with all my spare time before having kids?  Continue reading...
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Since the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, U.S. government officials have been wrestling with a question of semantics: should Morsi's removal be called a coup? The answer to the question has serious foreign-policy implications.  Continue reading...
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High/low, yes/no, black/white. There's something reassuring about opposites. A lot of vocabulary teaching is done using pairs of opposites, and with good reason: learners really feel they have a handle on a concept if they grasp its antithesis. There are, however, some other concept families that are best learned using three terms — triples — that provide a middle ground which in turn enhances all three concepts.  Continue reading...
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The New York Times recently posted an opinion piece and a short film about a "vigilante copy editor" who was "correcting" placards at the sculpture garden at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Among the hundreds of comments lamenting the proliferation of bad grammar and misspellings in the world were the inevitable swipes at the grammar and spelling of the other commenters, as well as that of The Times.  Continue reading...
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Last December I commemorated the two hundredth anniversary of what was then the first-known appearance of "Uncle Sam" as a personification of the United States, which turned up in a Bennington, Vermont newspaper. Now, just in time for the Fourth of July, comes new evidence that "Uncle Sam" was in use as early as 1810, more than two years before the phrase's popularization in the War of 1812.  Continue reading...
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"All men are created equal." This sentence stands among the most powerful five words penned since Biblical times. America's founders declared the sentence a "self-evident truth," and for two hundred and thirty-seven years it has been both the rock on which the nation's democracy has stood firm, and a lightning flash that has inspired rebels everywhere to fight against the lies of tyrants.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 Displaying 15-21 of 24 Articles