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In just about every city, people repeat variations of the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait an hour." And for good reason. Weather is an ever-changing — and, on our stressed-out globe — increasingly extreme phenomenon. Weather never stops: it just keeps shifting and mutating into something else. That sounds like another natural phenomenon I know: language.  Continue reading...

To many, the selfie — a picture of yourself, taken by yourself and shared on social media — is a sign of rampant narcissism. I tend to share that belief. Even before I heard the word, I thought there was something mentally amiss with my Facebook friends who posted over a hundred head shots of themselves. However, as a lexicographer, I have to admit the selfie trend is now broader than the self.  Continue reading...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Mansplaining — a fella explaining something, unnecessarily and often incorrectly, with oodles of condescension — is as old as the hills. The word itself has been around since about 2009, but it's blossomed since, providing a potent weapon in women's arsenal against overbearing dudes.  Continue reading...

1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 134 Articles