8 9 10 11 12 Displaying 64-70 of 134 Articles

In learning about the Constitution in my American history class in junior high, we learned about the Framers, checks and balances, three branches of government, and all the rest. We learned about the bicameral legislature, i.e., the two chambers of the United States Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. But after learning all that, I wondered: Where did congressmen fit into the picture with all these representatives and senators? I'd seen campaign signs referring to "Congressman So-and-so"; I'd heard encouragements to "write your congressman!"; who were these congressmen?  Continue reading...

The English language is full of paradoxes, like the fact that "literally" pretty much always means "figuratively. Other words mean their opposites as well — "scan" means both 'read closely' and 'skim.' "Restive" originally meant 'standing still' but now it often means 'antsy.' "Dust" can mean 'to sprinkle with dust' and 'to remove the dust from something.' "Oversight" means both looking closely at something and ignoring it. "Sanction" sometimes means 'forbid,' sometimes, 'allow.' And then there's "ravel," which means 'ravel, or tangle' as well as its opposite, 'unravel,' as when Macbeth evokes "Sleepe that knits up the rauel'd Sleeue of Care."  Continue reading...

Linguist Neal Whitman draws a bead on the expression young guns (not to be confused with younguns), and finds that sometimes the so-called "Recency Illusion" isn't an illusion after all.  Continue reading...

Facebook wants to trademark the word "face." The social networker which connects more than 500 million users has already shown how we can all live together as one big happy set of FBF's by forcing other sites to drop "book" from their names, and now, in application no. 78980756 to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Facebook is asserting its ownership of the word "face" as well.  Continue reading...

Gen-Xers like me remember MTV as the 24-hour-a-day source of music videos in the 1980s, when it stood for "Music Television." Many people today would be surprised to learn that MTV ever had anything to do with music. These days, MTV is better known as the source of reality shows like "The Jersey Shore." And now, here's something else that has nothing to do with music that you can think of when you think MTV: Conjugating verbs! When you think MTV, think "mood, tense, and voice."  Continue reading...

News recently broke about words like chillax and vuvuzela getting added to the Oxford Dictionary of English. Merrill Perlman, who writes the "Language Corner" column for Columbia Journalism Review, noticed that many reports of the story couldn't get the name of the dictionary right. Here is her guide for the perplexed.  Continue reading...

University of Illinois English professor Dennis Baron writes:

Every once in a while some concerned citizen decides to do something about the fact that English has no gender-neutral pronoun. They either call for such a pronoun to be invented, or they invent one and champion its adoption. Wordsmiths have been coining gender-neutral (or "epicene") pronouns for a century and a half, all to no avail.  Continue reading...

8 9 10 11 12 Displaying 64-70 of 134 Articles