While college basketball fans may be marveling at the exciting upsets of March Madness, the world of competitive crossword solving has experienced a major upset as well, as six-time reigning champion Dan Feyer was dethroned in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, losing out to first-time champ Howard Barkin.  Continue reading...

Gathering in Washington D.C. for its annual meeting, the American Dialect Society has made its 26th annual selection for Word of the Year. And as predicted in this space last month, the winner is a lowly pronoun: they used as a gender-neutral alternative to he and she, with special attention paid to its use as an expression of "non-binary" gender identity.  Continue reading...

Greetings from Washington, D.C., 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. Winners will be selected from the different categories on Friday evening, culminating in the vote for the overall Word of the Year. Here's the list of nominees.  Continue reading...

As is the annual tradition, it is time once again to look back at the new and notable words of the past year. In 2015, could the most significant word have been a lowly pronoun?  Continue reading...

For the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at how the seemingly random number eighty-six became a verb meaning to get rid of something, thanks to a long-forgotten code of hash houses and soda-fountain lunch counters.  Continue reading...

The latest episode of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley is a hoot and a half, as I take a look at the origins of hootenanny, a word that emerged from rural America with many meanings before finding fame as a name for folk-music gatherings.  Continue reading...

On the latest installment of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I look into the origins of the slang term humdinger, which hit it big around the turn of the 20th century to refer to someone or something remarkable or impressive.  Continue reading...

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