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I've been coaching a team of three eighth-grade girls for the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, as one of the co-curricular clubs that are offered at my sons' school. We've been having fun working what amounts to logic puzzles with a linguistic slant, and I've been introducing various linguistic concepts as they become relevant. A few weeks ago, as we worked our way through a puzzle whose solution depended on recognizing the length of a syllable, I decided it would be useful for the team to know the word diphthong.  Continue reading...

The word hybrid (from Latin hybrida, "mongrel") commonly refers to animals and plants of mixed lineage, and more recently to vehicles with two or more power sources. In linguistic morphology, it refers to a word formed by combining elements that originated in two or more languages. The process is called hybridization.  Continue reading...

Earlier this month, the Earth's population passed seven billion. During the summer, the United States' national debt (at least the official debt as calculated by the U.S. Treasury) hit $14 trillion. And in a joke that's been going around for about a decade, various people, including blondes, Texas Aggies, violinists, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, have learned of the death of several Brazilian skydivers (or Brazilian soldiers in Iraq) and wondered, "How many is a Brazilian?"  Continue reading...

As most histories of Halloween will tell you, Hallowe'en (or Halloween) is a shortened version of All-Hallow(s)-Eve, but how and why did eve turn into e'en? For that matter, what is a hallow? Why did the all get dropped?  Continue reading...

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 happened ten years ago, and although everybody remembers what they were doing at that flashbulb moment, and many aspects of our lives were changed by those attacks, from traveling to shopping to going online, one thing stands out: the only significant impact that 9/11 has had on the English language is 9/11 itself.  Continue reading...

Payback Time

The movies have me in a venge-ful mood these days. Among the surfeit of superhero movies this summer there was Captain America: The First Avenger. This movie, along with Thor and last summer's Iron Man 2, is a prelude to next summer's The Avengers, showcasing the Marvel superhero team that features these characters.  Continue reading...

It's back to school, and that means it's time for dictionaries to trot out their annual lists of new words. Dictionary-maker Merriam-Webster recently released a list of 150 words just added to its new Collegiate Dictionary for 2011, including cougar, a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man, boomerang child, a young adult who returns to live at home for financial reasons, and social media -- if you don't know what that means, then you're still living in the last century.  Continue reading...

4 5 6 7 8 Displaying 36-42 of 129 Articles