8 9 10 11 12 Displaying 64-70 of 319 Articles

In two recent articles, The New York Times has reported on culture wars involving "hipsters": locals in the Long Island town of Montauk are suffering from "hipster fatigue," while in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the hipsters are battling with new parents and their babies. All of this raises the question: where did the term hipster come from? Does it have something to do with hippies? And what about the even older term, hepcat?  Continue reading...
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"The whole nine yards," meaning "the full extent of something," remains one of the most puzzling idioms for word-watchers. Everyone seems to have their own explanation for where the expression comes from, and yet there is still no definitive origin story for it. This is surprising for a phrase that's not terribly old: scattered uses can be found from the 1960s, and now it's been pushed back a bit earlier, to 1956.  Continue reading...
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Via Twitter, theatre director Jen Bender posed a question that had recently come up in conversation: "A married man's lover is his mistress. What's the name for a woman's illicit lover?" Searching for an answer to that question points to the many gender-related asymmetries in English.  Continue reading...
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Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the first official performance of the Rolling Stones. When it comes to songwriting, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards usually don't receive as much adulation as their counterparts in the Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But Mick and Keith have churned out some wonderful turns of phrase over the past half century. Consider this, from the Stones' 1969 single, "Honky Tonk Women": "She blew my nose and then she blew my mind."  Continue reading...
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Hot dogs, fireworks, pie-eating contests... the Fourth of July is the same all around the United States, right? Not quite: some Independence Day traditions are more localized. Take "the parade of horribles," a peculiar procession that you can find in various New England shore towns. Even more peculiarly, "the parade of horribles" has become a legal metaphor, one that made an appearance in the Supreme Court's healthcare ruling last week.  Continue reading...
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Recently on Twitter, Amanda Pleva vented, "I guess I'm too much of a language nerd, but the title of the show 'Monster In Laws' makes me cringe every time I see it." Amanda was referring to the reality show on the A&E Network, "Monster In-Laws," which encourages viewers to "follow married couples dealing with meddling in-laws as they try to make peace with the help of an unconventional, no-nonsense relationship expert." So is the title of the show a linguistic faux-pas?  Continue reading...
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The word marriage has been the subject of a huge amount of political and legal wrangling, and dictionaries have lately been caught in the crossfire. With major English dictionaries expanding their definitions of marriage to encompass same-sex unions, lexicographers have taken hits from liberals and conservatives alike. Those opposed to same-sex marriage would prefer that dictionaries maintain the traditional definition, while those on the other side of the debate argue that same-sex marriage shouldn't be treated as secondary. Lexicographers find themselves in a no-win situation.  Continue reading...
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8 9 10 11 12 Displaying 64-70 of 319 Articles