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Years ago, when the furniture in the Language Lounge was still spick-and-span, I wrote a column about reduplication. Not a day has passed since then that I did not use, hear, and delight in one or more reduplicative words; they constitute a reliable source of infotainment in English, and no speaker's lexicon can or should be without a ready supply.  Continue reading...

Google's Ngram Viewer, especially with its addition of wildcard searching, provides an inexhaustible trove of material for understanding the ways that speakers and writers impart influential nuances to the connotations of words over time. The legacy of any particular word is subject to the whims of the people who use it.  Continue reading...

The Clean and the Unclean

In the recent Congressional showdown that resulted in the government shutdown, Senator Charles Schumer warned about what would happen if the House of Representatives sent the Senate a bill that was "unclean." What associations reverberate from his use of unclean to characterize the budget legislation?  Continue reading...

How speakers introduce additions to the language that then gain circulation is difficult to document: even today in the Internet age, tracing the origins of linguistic innovation is a sleuth's game and it's a subject that intrigues linguists. Now researchers are trying to bring more light to the process by which people create, learn and use new words.  Continue reading...

Premium is a versatile word that occupies a unique semantic space in English, with nodes corresponding to ideas of scarcity, superior quality, preference, payment, and reward. The ways in which the usage of premium has changed in the last century or so have given premium a kind of circuit-training workout, allowing it to exercise its meanings vigorously at each of these nodes at different times.  Continue reading...

During the five or so years that I have been writing the Word of the Day feature for the Visual Thesaurus, I have noticed a pattern: certain words in English that sound and feel just right — words that are easy to remember and fun to use because their sound seems to evoke the thing they stand for so well — are often of unknown, obscure, or disputed origins. Is this just a coincidence? Read on and decide for yourself.  Continue reading...

A news story that flitted across the headlines earlier this year reported on a study called "The Geography of Happiness," in which researchers in Vermont subjected 10 million geotagged tweets to sentiment analysis. Their object was to arrive at a metric for the relative happiness of people in a place. "The Geography of Happiness" breaks new ground in the analysis of digital-age linguistic data, while also raising interesting questions about the limits of obtaining reliable results from algorithm-driven research on big bags of words.  Continue reading...

1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 118 Articles