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What sounds do you make when words fail? A garbled stutter? A whistle? Or is there just the resounding bump of your jaw hitting the floor? Turns out, there are words to capture the wordless shock we experience when we're confronted by mess, noise, violence, or otherwise sticky situations. They're linked by sound: repeated syllables and long vowels that are onomatopoeically evocative of the sounds that come out of our mouths when our brains are overwhelmed.  Continue reading...
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Sunday is the longest day of the year and the official start to summer. To get ready, we're taking a look at the words and terms enshrined in our language that capture our collective experience of the summer season — trotted out once again like the shorts and sandals we've been waiting all winter to wear again.  Continue reading...
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Did that headline peak your interest? Or did it pique it? I'm waiting with baited breath for your answer. Or would that be bated? All of us have a tendency to replace a fossilized word, whose nuances have been lost, with a more standard definition of that word or a different word entirely. Through this process, phrases, like words, can change meaning over time.  Continue reading...
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References made by authors sometimes don't age very well. If these references are lost to history, or fall on deaf ears, it can be very frustrating for the reader. This can be especially true when the reference is part of the title. Many schoolchildren know that the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty is called "The New Colossus," but the reference to the statue of Helios at Rhodes is probably obscure, and the relationship between the two statues themselves is not entirely clear.  Continue reading...
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Revising what one has written is a key part to the writing process. But what about revising the title, the way a work will be known for all time? Literary history is filled with titles that "almost were," and they are difficult to embrace, perhaps because the titles we know are so comfortably familiar.  Continue reading...
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The film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into The Woods just opened to much critical acclaim. Musical theater and film are very different, and revising and adapting one's work is a challenge, but what changes and how it changes can offer us insight into the art and the artist.  Continue reading...
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Last year for Thanksgiving, I did something gastronomically delicious but linguistically impossible: I dry-brined my turkey. The very word brine implies water. Tons of sea-faring stories reference the briny deep as a euphemism for the salty sea. So what could a dry-brine possibly be?  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 Displaying 1-7 of 19 Articles