, Slate's podcast for language lovers, has just returned after an extended hiatus. First up is an interview with Columbia University professor John McWhorter about his new book The Language Hoax
. Listen to the podcast here
, and also check out Mark Peters' review of McWhorter's book here
. And stay tuned for news about our own Ben Zimmer
joining forces with the Lexicon Valley podcasters!
Just in time for the 4th of July, our own Ben Zimmer investigates how the term "Yank" started off as a term of disparagement but was reclaimed as an expression of patriotic pride in settings from world wars to the World Cup.
It's time once again for the Scripps National Spelling Bee! The preliminaries are today, and the nationally televised semifinals and finals are tomorrow (May 29). As in past years, our own Ben Zimmer will be live-tweeting the competition from the @VocabularyCom
Twitter account and reporting on the results here in his Word Routes column. In the meantime, catch up on our coverage of the format changes introduced last year that brought vocabulary questions into the mix: here
Merriam-Webster has added a batch of new words to its Collegiate Dictionary, with tech words like big data
predominating. Meanwhile, across the pond, Collins is crowdsourcing the choice of a new word for its latest dictionary edition, allowing people to tweet their favorites from such choices as adorkable
, and fracktivist
. Read the Merriam-Webster announcement here
and the Collins announcement here
On Twitter, the single word "blessed" has been pressed into service as a popular hashtag, often appended to self-serving portrayals of enviable lifestyles. The overuse of "#blessed" has led to a backlash against the hashtag, and now it frequently appears in tweets sarcastically. Has "#blessed" run its course? Our own Ben Zimmer joined in a discussion about the shelf-life of hashtags on Huffington Post Live.
Six years ago, Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations
, stirred up some controversy over the origins of the famous Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Shapiro cast doubt on the popular attribution of the saying to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. But now Shapiro has gained some serenity of his own by concluding that Niebuhr really did originate the prayer.
A great challenge for anyone looking to improve their vocabulary is identifying the words they don't know. Yesterday, Slate contributor Seth Stevenson gave the phenomenon a name in "Bubble vocabulary: the words you almost know, sometimes use, but are secretly unsure of."