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.
Writing for The Boston Globe
, NYU doctoral candidate Rachael Scarborough King reported on recent studies that cast doubt on the commonly held assumption that William Shakespeare invented many of the words we use today.
This week there has been a raging language debate about the inclusion of the non-literal meaning of "literally" in various dictionaries. But is the whole controversy overblown? Here is a roundup of online reactions.
and Oxford University Press recently organized a webcast entitled "Should 'Tweeps' Be in the Dictionary?" about the role of dictionaries in the age of social media. Participating were Katherine Connor Martin, head of U.S. dictionaries at OUP, Henrietta Thornton-Verma, reviews editor at Library Journal
, and Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus. Read Thornton-Verma's recap here
, and listen to the full webcast here
On TIME Newsfeed, Katy Steinmetz wonders why Twitter has inspired "an army of fusion words," or portmanteaus — from "Twiplomacy" (Twitter diplomacy) to "Twitterati" (Twitter literati). Our own Ben Zimmer has some ideas.