January 24, 2014
Language writer Jen Doll takes on the phenomenon of linguistic "peeving" for the Atlantic and collects a list of "classics." See any you recognize? Continue reading...
January 22, 2014
It's a popularly held idea that dictionary writers have the power to add words to the lexicon when in fact language is changed the by people who use it and the job of the lexigrographer is to take note. Our own Ben Zimmer revisits this distinction in a look at a recent episode of the Nickelodeon teen comedy "Sam & Cat," in which the titular characters take on word-creation head on. Continue reading...
The Best Punctuation Marks in Literature
January 20, 2014
On New York Magazine's Vulture blog, Kathryn Schulz has compiled what she considers the five best uses of punctuation in the history of literature. From the colon in Dickens's A Christmas Carol ("Marley was dead: to begin with") to the ellipses in T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," it's a fascinating list. Read it here.
December 25, 2013
Christmas songs: On city sidewalks and every street corner... from Black Friday through New Year's... they're broadcast inside and out, they stick in our heads, they are parodied and rewritten, and yet many of us, even as we sing along, don't give much thought to what the words mean. Continue reading...
Freshman? Freshperson? Frosh? First-Year?
December 6, 2013
Despite the successful efforts of nonsexist language reform, the word "freshman" persists on college campuses. On the Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca blog, University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan considers why this is and weighs the alternatives. Read her article here.
December 2, 2013
In case you haven't heard, today is "Cyber Monday," the day that retailers have decided we should all be flocking to make online purchases for our holiday gift list. Last year, Ben Zimmer explained how the advent of "Black Friday" led to the branding of "Cyber Monday" and other days in the Holy Week of shopping. Continue reading...
November 28, 2013
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. Continue reading...