Today is "Cyber Monday," the day that retailers have anointed as the kickoff of the online holiday shopping season. "Cyber Monday" is a recent coinage, going back to a 2005 press release. "Black Friday," on which "Cyber Monday" is modeled, goes back to the early 1960s, and some newly discovered evidence illuminates its early use.
On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Americans kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang. We look back to a Word Routes column by lexicographer Ben Zimmer exploring the origins of the phrase "Black Friday." It is not, as many believe, the day when retailers' balance sheets change from red to black.
The editors at Oxford Dictionaries have selected their choice for 2014 Word of the Year, and it is "vape," defined as "to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device." Check out Oxford's announcement here
. Our contributor Nancy Friedman was on the case back in 2010, in her column, "But Wait, There's Less!
" (Nancy also named "vape" one of her Words of 2013
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
The Linguistic Society of America today named Vocabulary.com-Visual Thesaurus Executive Producer Ben Zimmer as the first recipient of the Linguistics Journalism Award
. The award honors "the journalist whose work best represents linguistics" during the past 12 months. In addition to his stellar work on Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus
, the LSA singled out Zimmer's language column in the Wall Street Journal
, as well as "articles on linguistic topics for the Boston Globe
, The Atlantic
, Slate's 'Lexicon Valley' blog, and Language Log."
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.