Claire Hardaker, a linguist at Lancaster University in the U.K., recently published a survey of "trolling," i.e., "behavior of being deliberately antagonistic or offensive via computer-mediated communication (CMC), typically for amusement's sake." In the wake of the media attention her work has received, Hardaker considers the varying definitions people have for the word "troll."
"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling was recently revealed to have written a crime novel, "The Cuckoo's Calling," using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. How she was found out involved a couple of linguistic experts analyzing the "little words" that are used in the novel's text.
Since the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, U.S. government officials have been wrestling with a question of semantics: should Morsi's removal be called a coup
? The answer to the question has serious foreign-policy implications.
, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com, has been writing a language column for the last couple of years for The Boston Globe
(and before that for The New York Times Magazine
). Now he is starting a new language column for The Wall Street Journal
called "Word on the Street." Each week he will focus on a word in the news and examine its history. In his first column, he looks at how cyber
is showing up with increasing frequency as a noun. Check it out here
In the latest quarterly update to the Oxford English Dictionary, one entry in particular has attracted attention: tweet
, previously defined only as the chirping of birds, has been expanded to refer to 140-character Twitter updates as well. The OED loosened its usual "ten year rule" to let this newcomer in.
"There are some old words," explains Arika Okrent on Mental Floss, "that are nearly obsolete but we still recognize because they were lucky enough to get stuck in set phrases that have lasted across the centuries." Okrent lists a dozen "lucky words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms."
You might have seen a set of American English dialect maps making the rounds online after a Business Insider
piece about the maps went viral. But where does all of that survey data come from? Our own Ben Zimmer has the story on Language Log — read his post here