7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 132 Articles

There's a federal law that defines writing. Because the meaning of the words in our laws isn't always clear, the very first of our federal laws, the Dictionary Act--the name for Title 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, of the U.S. Code--defines what some of the words in the rest of the Code mean, both to guide legal interpretation and to eliminate the need to explain those words each time they appear. Writing is one of the words it defines, but the definition needs an upgrade.  Continue reading...

In a publicity stunt, Toyota took out a New York Times ad, put out a YouTube video, and distributed a survey at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, asking the public what the plural of Prius should be, in a campaign announcing that there is going to be a family of Prius models. I hesitate to reward them with more publicity for such a willfully dumb question. But I can’t help myself. This is too good an excuse to talk about the wider topic of phony Latinate plurals. Well-played, Toyota.  Continue reading...

AT&T wants you to believe that corporations are people, just like you and me, and that just like us, they have a constitutional right to privacy. To prove it, AT&T says, just look at the law and the dictionary.  Continue reading...

Last week, President Barack Obama sent Americans running to the dictionary when he called Democrats opposing his compromise on tax cuts "sanctimonious."  Continue reading...

The international diplomatic community was abuzz this week, reeling from "Cablegate," the scandalous revelation of secret diplomatic cables by Wikileaks. But what's a "cable" anyway, in this day and age? Our resident linguist Neal Whitman investigates.  Continue reading...

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...

7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 132 Articles