On the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at the roots of the festive word carnival, associated with pre-Lenten celebrations around the Christian world. Some scholars speculate that the true origins of carnival actually lie in pagan rituals predating Christianity.  Continue reading...

Quiz is a word with a background so baffling it might make you feel a bit quizzical. For Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast, I delve into the mysterious origins of quiz and its long-forgotten brother quoz.  Continue reading...

Etymology can take some peculiar turns as a word criss-crosses different cultures. For the latest installment of Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast, I take the hosts along on the journey of the word cockamamie, which might seem stranger than fiction.  Continue reading...

The American Dialect Society made its 25th annual selection for Word of the Year, and for the first time the winner was actually a Twitter hashtag: #blacklivesmatter. Even though the socially conscious slogan is formed by combining three words, as a hashtag it was converted into something linguistically innovative, attracting the attention of the assorted language scholars who gathered for the vote at the society's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.  Continue reading...

Greetings from Portland, Oregon, where the American Dialect Society is holding its annual conference. On Thursday, in my capacity as chair of the society's New Words Committee, I presided over the nominating session for various categories in our Word of the Year selection  Continue reading...

It's time once again for the annual look back at the noteworthy words of the past year. Did you indulge in any manspreading or Columbusing this year? Were you concerned about dark money or plastigomerate? Here's a veritable vortex of words that rose to prominence in 2014.  Continue reading...

For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at a word with an origin story that seems too good to be true: grog, an alcoholic concoction, typically of rum and water, that has been making sailors groggy since the 18th century.  Continue reading...

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