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When the Academy Awards were given out last month, entertainment news was full of commentary about which movies, directors and performers should have been nominated but weren't—who got snubbed by those snobs in the Academy. That made me wonder if snub and snob were etymologically related.  Continue reading...
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Over the weekend, The New York Times presented an interactive quiz on newly prominent slang terms entitled "Are You On Fleek?" But what does "on fleek" mean, and how did it get to be such a trendy expression, especially on social media? Our resident linguist Neal Whitman investigates.  Continue reading...
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Since 1991, November has been National Novel-Writing Month, when thousands of aspiring writers take up the challenge of knocking out a 50,000-word draft of a novel in 30 days. I don't know much about writing novels, but I have learned one thing: Don't call your opus a "fiction novel."  Continue reading...
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The word "even" has been undergoing some interesting changes recently. What's the new thing going on with "even"? It has to do with questions. But posing questions that contain "even," it turns out, can be tricky business.  Continue reading...
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Tradecraft, which has been spy jargon since at least the 1960s, has been making its way into more mainstream consciousness recently, as we hear about operations like the search for Osama bin Laden, or about Edward Snowden's training as a spy. It's a good example of how words with seemingly transparent meanings can settle into semantic idiosyncrasy through historical circumstance.  Continue reading...
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Days of Future Past: It's not just the subtitle of the new X-Men movie that recently opened; it's an invitation to explore some of the lesser-traveled corridors in the English verb tense system.  Continue reading...
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As I was searching Twitter while writing last month's column on bae, I occasionally found tweets saying things like, "Gonna turn up tonight with my bae!" Now why would someone find it newsworthy to announce that they were simply going to appear somewhere? Of course, not everything people tweet is newsworthy, but still, why such excitement over simply showing up?  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 53 Articles