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For 24 years, the American Dialect Society has chosen a Word of the Year at its annual meeting in January. Typically, the word has been a noun or verb that has risen to prominence during the previous year. But this year, strong candidates such as selfie and twerk ultimately lost to a word that isn't a noun, verb, or adjective; doesn't describe some cultural phenomenon; and has been in continuous use in English for more than 700 years: because. How did that happen?  Continue reading...
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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was just released today. You can tell from the title that in this movie, someone's going to get desolated, and desolated but good. But who? Does Smaug desolate someone, or does someone desolate Smaug? What does desolate mean, anyway?  Continue reading...
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Imitation for a good reason, imitation for a stupid reason, or imitation just by instinct: "Monkey see, monkey do" covers them all. But what's with the non-standard grammar? Why isn't it "Monkey sees, monkey does"? Or "What a monkey sees, it does?"  Continue reading...
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In the thick of homecoming season and with a son in high school, I've been hearing more these days about who likes who, who's dating who, and who's unwillingly unattached at the moment. It turns out there have been some changes in the vocabulary for that situation since my high-school and college days.  Continue reading...
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The word hardcore has been getting more powerful in English for the past 80 years or so. What started as a way of describing the persistently unemployed has expanded into the domains of politics, music, and video games, not to mention general usage.  Continue reading...
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There is a new trend in concierge medicine, with concierge practices consisting of concierge doctors, concierge physicians, or maybe concierge dentists, all offering their versions of concierge healthcare. How did the word for the guy in the hotel lobby who can get you show tickets, a restaurant reservation, or almost anything else you need, come to refer to this kind of ultra-personalized medical care?  Continue reading...
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When I was in elementary school, and was being taught the difference between fact and opinion, I wondered how to classify statements like "There are 51 states in the United States." It wasn't true, so it wasn't a fact, but on the other hand, it didn't seem to involve the kind of judgment that we were learning to identify with opinions.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 51 Articles