Although turkeys were domesticated by Native Americans, turkey itself is not a Native American word. In this excerpt from a new book The Language of Food, linguist and Stanford University professor Dan Jurafsky charts the complicated path the word turkey followed into English, then serves up a slice of etymological pecan pie.  Continue reading...

Are you baffled by the perplexing terminology favored by American politicians and pundits? A new book by Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark is here to help. Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes is an informative and humorous guide to deciphering contemporary political lingo. Here we present an excerpt from the book's introduction.  Continue reading...

"A breath of fresh air." "Few and far between." "At the end of the day." These are just a few of the clichés examined by Orin Hargraves, an experienced lexicographer and one of our regular contributors, in his new book It's Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Cliches. In this excerpt, Hargraves explains how to "free your speech and writing of unneeded and detrimental clichés."  Continue reading...

Ammon Shea's enjoyable, witty new book Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation shows that English isn't really bad at all — despite what legions of gripers and nitpickers have to say. Armed with facts and historical context, Shea gives readers an informed and enjoyable tour of the issues that annoy people the most about language.  Continue reading...

If you have any interest in apologies, language as performance, or politics, you'll enjoy Edwin L. Battistella's Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apologies. This is a terrific book, full of compelling examples and expert analysis. Reading this book will not only help you become better at making a mea culpa: you'll become a sharper observer of other people's apologies too.  Continue reading...

Whorfianism — the idea that language shapes thought, and each language creates a distinct worldview — is an appealing idea. But there's one problem: Whorfianism, at least dogmatic Whorfianism, is a huge load of bunk, at least according to John McWhorter's new book The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.  Continue reading...

As Black History Month comes to a close, we are proud to feature a fantastic new reference book: Bartlett's Familiar Black Quotations. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr. states in the foreword, it is an "impressively researched and documented collection of the finest thought produced by writers throughout the African diaspora." Here we present an excerpt from the preface by the book's editor, Retha Powers.  Continue reading...

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