When it first became evident that Hurricane Sandy might merge with an inland snowstorm to create a superstorm, the creative labels started pouring in. Snowicane
. But now that the storm has shut down much of the East Coast, is it time to set aside such wordplay?
Today is National Dictionary Day, celebrating the birth of lexicographer Noah Webster, who wrote An American Dictionary of the English Language
, which defined an American version of the English lexicon for the first time. To celebrate, let us know your favorite all-American word.
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.
Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Shortly after his passing last year, Ben Zimmer mused on "Jobs's unique and spirited way with words," from "think different" to "stay hungry." Read his Word Routes column, "'And One More Thing': The Insanely Great Language of Steve Jobs," here
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.