The Oxford English Dictionary has long relied on "the wisdom of the crowds" to build a comprehensive historical record of English words and phrases back to their origins. The dictionary's latest experiment in crowdsourcing is "OED Appeals," an online initiative to engage the public in finding "antedatings," or citations that predate the earliest known examples in the OED files.
Here's a project we can get behind: Mysteries of Vernacular
, which presents etymological stories behind common words via beautiful papercraft animation. One word per letter of the alphabet is planned: so far they've finished assassin
, and pants
. Check 'em out.
In honor of National Punctuation Day, the Atlantic Wire asked "a few of our favorite writers and word-minded folks around the web" to name their favorite punctuation marks. Among the contributors was our own Ben Zimmer. Find out Ben's response and those of some other punctuation-loving writers below.
Avast, ye mateys! Did you know that September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Arrrr, it's true! We've got some suggestions for sounding properly piratical.
For months now, copywriter/illustrator Ted McCagg has been holding a "Best Word Ever" competition on his blog, pairing off words in single-elimination showdowns. Winners have been whimsically selected in different brackets, ultimately leading to a final round pitting gherkin
. And now diphthong has emerged victorious
. For more on the curious word, see Neal Whitman's column, "Oy, You Diphthong!
On the first Monday in September, the United States observes Labor Day, while Canadians celebrate Labour Day. If you want to know why labour
is the accepted spelling in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries like Canada, while Americans prefer labor
, and neighbor
), check out this classic Word Routes column
by Ben Zimmer.
We were, needless to say, absolutely thrilled to learn that the Visual Thesaurus has inspired a short film, fittingly titled, "Word Cloud." The film was created by Claire Scholz of Rapid City, South Dakota, and stars Claire and her granddaughter Anna. It was prepared for a local family-run film festival, and we're honored to feature it here on our site as well.