"Minced oaths," Arika Okrent of Mental Floss reminds us, are "creative substitutions" of taboo expressions, and English used to be full of them. Okrent lists ten entertaining ones, including "G. Rover Cripes!" and "Gosh-All-Potomac!" See the whole list here
The NCAA College Basketball Tournament, nicknamed "March Madness," is in full swing again, and some early-round upsets have spelled bad news for those betting on chalk
, meaning the favorites in the tournament. How did the term chalk
come to be associated with teams favored by oddsmakers? A Word Routes column by Ben Zimmer has the answer.
Some words that have fallen into disuse are due for a revival. Recently, the blog Jezebel compiled "18 uncommon or obsolete words that we think may have died early," including curglaff
("the shock felt in bathing when one first plunges into the cold water") and resistentialism
(the seemingly spiteful behavior shown by inanimate objects). Check out the complete list here
Happy National Grammar Day
, all you grammar-heads! To celebrate, you might enjoy reading through the contributions to the annual Grammar Haiku Contest
. (Congratulations to the winners — full results are here
). And check out Jen Doll's piece for The Atlantic Wire
about how best to celebrate the day (featuring an interview with our own Ben Zimmer
On NPR's Morning Edition, Ari Shapiro reported on how the debate over gun restrictions in the United States is powerfully framed by terms such as "gun control" and "gun rights." Our own Ben Zimmer
is interviewed about how language shapes such political debates. Listen to the segment here
, and check out a list of "loaded words" from the gun debate here
On the NPR program "Fresh Air," Berkeley linguist Geoff Nunberg turned to a topic that is one of our favorites: assessing the linguistic accuracy of period dramas, whether it's Downton Abbey
, Mad Men
. In an age obsessed with authenticity, Nunberg argues, we often choose to nitpick over the wrong details.
The "Today Show" visited Boston on Friday, and as part of the show they included a segment on the accent of the city, so immediately recognizable and so often imitated (but rarely well!). And who did they turn to for background on how the accent came to be? Our very own Ben Zimmer.