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A few weeks ago I started a regular feature on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley called LinguaFile, in which I present the hosts with a word and have them try to guess its origins. Last time it was discombobulate, and for this week's episode I went with another one of my favorite words, lagniappe, meaning "a bonus gift (as given to a customer from a merchant)."  Continue reading...
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Last week, as part of the Lexicon Valley podcast, I talked about how the word discombobulate grew out of a vogue in the Jacksonian era for making up jocular polysyllabic words with a pseudo-classical air. That impulse for concocting silly-sounding sesquipedalianisms has often bubbled up in the history of English.  Continue reading...
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On Lexicon Valley, Slate's podcast about language, I'm taking part in a regular feature. I come prepared with a mystery word, and the hosts have to guess the word itself and its origins. The first word didn't remain a mystery for very long: discombobulate.  Continue reading...
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In reimagining the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty, Disney had a great tool in their arsenal: the classic villain name "Maleficent," now elevated to title character. And while Angelina Jolie’s portrayal in the reboot calls into question just how villainous she really is, there is no question that the creators of the original film chose wisely when naming this "mistress of all evil."  Continue reading...
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It was another dramatic finish at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. After the 46 semifinalists were whittled down to the dozen contestants for last night's finals, I tweeted, "12 kids enter, 1 kid leaves." Little did I know that two kids would be named co-champions in the Bee's first tie since 1962.  Continue reading...
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It's time once again for the Scripps National Spelling Bee! Two hundred and eighty-one young spellers gathered near Washington, D.C. and sweated through the preliminary rounds yesterday. For the second year, those rounds included not just questions about the spelling of words but also their definitions. After all was said and done, 46 survived to advance to Thursday's semifinals.  Continue reading...
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With the teams competing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament whittled down to the Final Four, "March Madness" is coming to a close. (Actually, as has been the case for a few decades now, March Madness extends into the beginning of April, when the semifinal and final games are played.) In honor of college hoops, I've selected a "Final Four" of important terms associated with the tournament.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 322 Articles