As Veterans Day is observed in the United States, a question of military usage continues to pose a puzzle: if "50,000 troops" refers to 50,000 people, then does "one troop" refer to one person? Linguist Neal Whitman looked into the matter on Veterans Day in 2009. Check out his column here
As most histories of Halloween will tell you, Hallowe'en
) is a shortened version of All-Hallow(s)-Eve
, but how and why did eve
turn into e'en
? For that matter, what is a hallow? Why did the all
David Skinner's new book, The Story of Ain't
, is about the controversy that surrounded the 1961 publication of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, which was blasted for not coming down hard enough on nonstandard words like ain't
. Skinner looks at how far we've come in our view of slang and dictionaries in a piece for the Wall Street Journal, "Ain't This Good English?
" And read more about Webster's Third in Ben Zimmer's Word Routes
column last year celebrating the dictionary's 50th birthday.
When it first became evident that Hurricane Sandy might merge with an inland snowstorm to create a superstorm, the creative labels started pouring in. Snowicane
. But now that the storm has shut down much of the East Coast, is it time to set aside such wordplay?
Today is National Dictionary Day, celebrating the birth of lexicographer Noah Webster, who wrote An American Dictionary of the English Language
, which defined an American version of the English lexicon for the first time. To celebrate, let us know your favorite all-American word.
As Americans celebrate Columbus Day, it's worth reflecting on the complicated cultural and linguistic legacy that Christopher Columbus left behind. There's a single word that aptly illustrates this legacy and all of its contradictions: Indians
, the mistaken name that Columbus gave to the native peoples of the Americas.
Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Shortly after his passing last year, Ben Zimmer mused on "Jobs's unique and spirited way with words," from "think different" to "stay hungry." Read his Word Routes column, "'And One More Thing': The Insanely Great Language of Steve Jobs," here