"There are some old words," explains Arika Okrent on Mental Floss, "that are nearly obsolete but we still recognize because they were lucky enough to get stuck in set phrases that have lasted across the centuries." Okrent lists a dozen "lucky words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms."
You might have seen a set of American English dialect maps making the rounds online after a Business Insider
piece about the maps went viral. But where does all of that survey data come from? Our own Ben Zimmer has the story on Language Log — read his post here
Visual Thesaurus contributor James Harbeck
recently appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition to give a phonetic breakdown of noises that teenagers often make. Listen to the segment here
, and read more about teenage sounds on The Week here
. Breathy-voiced long low back unrounded vowel with advanced tongue root, anyone?
Los Angeles Times tech reporter Chris O'Brien has discovered that the favorite word among techie types is "delight": "A squishy, subjective, hard-to-pin-down term. So daringly unquantifiable, so proudly immeasurable. And now, suddenly, all the rage in data-driven Silicon Valley." Read O'Brien's delightful piece here
With Baz Luhrmann's movie adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
arriving in theaters, this week has been full of Gatsby
talk. Online commentators have been writing about words coined or popularized by Fitzgerald, the slang of the 1920s "flapper" era, and even the name Gatsby
In an essay on writing in last week's The New Yorker, John McPhee describes drawing boxes around "perfectly O.K." words in a search for the "mot juste." Meanwhile, Virginia Woolf tells us words are a messy tangle that will always elude our best efforts to tie them down.
The language technology company Idibon recently launched a blog, and one interesting contribution comes from Tyler Schnoebelen, who has data-mined the titles of nearly 40,000 songs that have appeared on Billboard's pop charts from 1890 to 2012. It turns out that when it comes to song titles, "love" is most definitely in the air.