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Oh, to be svelte. To be as light as felt, a suave fellow or a lass as light as a velleity, not swelling like Elvis but sweltering hot: no thicker than the drop of sweat that falls down your brow at the sight or the plucked eyebrows of a stylish lady. And stylish, yes, svelte always seems stylish, fitted, bespoke tailored.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Freshman? Freshperson? Frosh? First-Year?

Despite the successful efforts of nonsexist language reform, the word "freshman" persists on college campuses. On the Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca blog, University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan considers why this is and weighs the alternatives. Read her article here.
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In "eminent domain," a government can seize property for public use, as long as it compensates the owner. In "imminent domain," it stands to reason, the government wants to do it NOW. Except that there is no such thing as "imminent domain." It's a mistake — a common one, but a mistake nonetheless.  Continue reading...
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Losing your job is scary. It raises many frightening questions. Can you find another job? How will you pay the bills in the meantime? Where will you get health insurance? Most importantly, what tacky and ridiculous euphemism will mask your firing so a corporate supervillain can sleep at night?  Continue reading...
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Words can be thought of as historical artifacts; they carry with them a stamp of time and place, and sometimes it's important to take the long view and think about words outside their immediate context and use a broader perspective.  Continue reading...
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In case you haven't heard, today is "Cyber Monday," the day that retailers have decided we should all be flocking to make online purchases for our holiday gift list. Last year, Ben Zimmer explained how the advent of "Black Friday" led to the branding of "Cyber Monday" and other days in the Holy Week of shopping.  Continue reading...
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Google's Ngram Viewer, especially with its addition of wildcard searching, provides an inexhaustible trove of material for understanding the ways that speakers and writers impart influential nuances to the connotations of words over time. The legacy of any particular word is subject to the whims of the people who use it.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 Displaying 15-21 of 21 Articles