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Leading up to the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year vote last night, handicappers might have favored such terms as selfie, twerk, or Obamacare as possible winners. But the society's selection was a bit of a surprise: the humble word because, which has recently expanded in new grammatical directions in informal use online.  Continue reading...

At the American Dialect Society's annual conference in Minneapolis, we have nominated words in various categories in our Word of the Year selection. I presided over the nominating session on Thursday in my capacity as chair of the society's New Words Committee. 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 the year comes to a close, it's time once again to survey the new words and phrases that made their presence felt in the popular consciousness. For the Wall Street Journal, I surveyed the "words that popped in 2013," from cronut to Sharknado, but there were too many good choices to include in one article. Here I present my more comprehensive list of notable words of the year.  Continue reading...

While Americans this week have marked the sad anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, there is a more pleasant commemoration going on as well. On Nov. 23, 1963, the day after Kennedy died, the BBC first broadcast the science-fiction series "Doctor Who." The franchise is still going strong 50 years later. To celebrate, let's look at one of the lexical contributions of "Doctor Who": the name for the nefarious alien race, "Dalek."  Continue reading...

We all know the old fairy tale: Goldilocks enters the house of the Three Bears and samples their porridge, their chairs, and their beds. Each time she finds one item that's "just right." In recent years, the familiar story has been making the rounds, with the word "Goldilocks" showing up in some unexpected contexts, from astronomy to economy.  Continue reading...

The persistent glitchiness of HealthCare.gov, the website implementing the Affordable Care Act, has given us much time to ponder that peculiar little word, glitch. As it happens, some new research on the word brings its origin, most likely from Yiddish, into a sharper perspective.  Continue reading...

With the government shutdown over and the default crisis averted, what many commentators called a "game of chicken" has finally ended on Capitol Hill. In my latest column for the Wall Street Journal, I take a look at how political stare-downs earned this appellation, and how chickens became animalistic symbols of cowardice in the first place.  Continue reading...

1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 326 Articles