In 1913, the National Press Club hosted a spelling bee that pitted members of Congress against members of the press. This week, the club celebrated the centennial of that event by bringing lawmakers and journalists together once again for a spelling battle, and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia emerged as the victor.
Avast! Ahoy! Bring it on, mateys! Did you know that September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Arrrr, it's true! Lately, it seems that everyone is trying to sound piratical.
For language lovers, Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast has been required listening for the past year and a half. Now Lexicon Valley has announced that in addition to the podcast, it is also launching a language blog on Slate. The blog cross-publishes posts from contributors to Language Log, including our own Ben Zimmer.
KUOW, Seattle's NPR affiliate, kicked off a new midday show this week called The Record. The show is featuring a regular series on the origins of peculiar words and phrases called "Strange Language," and they're getting the straight dope from our own Ben Zimmer.
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.
When Oxford Dictionaries announced that its quarterly update would include the word twerk
, a term for a particularly racy dance style, the timing was perfect: just two days earlier, Miley Cyrus had created a sensation by "twerking" at MTV's Video Music Awards. The result, writes our own Ben Zimmer, was a "perfect lexicographical storm."
We've been keeping tabs on the fuss over the word "literally" over the past couple of weeks, as commentators have expressed indignation that the non-literal definition of the word can be found in both online and print dictionaries now. In a Washington Post opinion piece, copy editor Bill Walsh, a self-identified "enlightened stickler," ruminates on the "literally" debate, which he thinks is overblown despite his own peevishness over misuse of the word.