2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 176 Articles

My friend Laura knows four languages plus "bits and pieces" of six others. That's impressive, but it's not quite in the same league as folks who pick up languages the way George Clooney picks up starlets: with frightening ease. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot written, in academic or popular literature, on hyperpolyglots: people who know not just two or three languages, but six or ten or twenty.  Continue reading...

When word nerdom and sci-fi nerdom collide, what do you get? A dictionary-bot that recites definitions while performing the duties of a butler? Someday, I hope that's true. For now, the answer is From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages: a thorough look at invented languages (also known as conlangs, short for constructed languages) from sci-fi and elsewhere.  Continue reading...


Yesterday, October 16, was National Dictionary Day, celebrated annually on the birthday of the great American lexicographer Noah Webster. Today the "Webster" name is practically synonymous with dictionaries, but how did the first "Webster's Dictionary" come to be? In this excerpt from The Forgotten Founding Father, Joshua Kendall recounts the publication of Webster's Compendious Dictionary in 1806, the first dictionary to bear his name and the first to feature his "American" spelling.  Continue reading...

Earlier this week we featured an excerpt from Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis, an entertaining look at the world of competitive Scrabble, now published in a tenth anniversary edition with a special afterword on the latest Scrabble developments. Here we present another excerpt from the afterword, about the raging debates over what words to include in the official Scrabble dictionary.  Continue reading...

Ten years ago, Stefan Fatsis published the book Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players. Since then, Scrabble has become even more competitive, thanks in part to the publicity from Word Freak. Fatsis has just released a tenth anniversary edition, with an afterword on the last decade's developments. Here we present an excerpt from the afterword about an astounding match that "rocked the Scrabble world."  Continue reading...

Earlier this week we featured an excerpt from the linguist John McWhorter's new book, What Language Is, in which he explains how the English language is essentially "disheveled." Here, in a second excerpt, McWhorter considers some questions that the chaotic history of English raises.  Continue reading...

In his new book, What Language Is, the linguist John McWhorter takes the reader on a guided tour of language as it really is, not how we might assume it to be. One of his keys to understanding language the way a linguist does is to appreciate that it is inherently messy, or "disheveled," as he puts it. In this excerpt, McWhorter uses the history of English as his example of just how disheveled language can be.  Continue reading...

2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 176 Articles