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With the teams competing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament whittled down to the Final Four, "March Madness" is coming to a close. (Actually, as has been the case for a few decades now, March Madness extends into the beginning of April, when the semifinal and final games are played.) In honor of college hoops, I've selected a "Final Four" of important terms associated with the tournament.  Continue reading...

If you saw the documentary "Wordplay," you witnessed young Tyler Hinman win the first of his five consecutive victories at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. This achievement seemed untouchable... until this year's tournament, when Dan Feyer managed to win for the fifth straight time — beating out none other than Tyler Hinman. Puzzlemaster Brendan Emmett Quigley wraps up the action.  Continue reading...

After the Seattle Seahawks shellacked the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl last night, the Seahawks players, coaches, and owners all made sure to thank "the twelfth man," as the team's boisterous fans have come to be collectively known. But the Seahawks only have the right to use that phrase because of a licensing agreement worked out with Texas A&M University, the trademark holders. Texas A&M claims the expression goes back to a legendary 1922 game, but its true history is far more complex.  Continue reading...

When Run Run Shaw, a giant of the Hong Kong entertainment industry, died earlier this month at the ripe old age of 106, I took the opportunity to look at a term with which he was intimately connected: kung fu. In the 1970s, martial-arts movies from the Shaw Brothers studio (and its Hong Kong rival, Golden Harvest) firmly planted kung fu in the global consciousness. But I was surprised to learn that kung fu as we know it was actually born on American soil.  Continue reading...

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...

1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 330 Articles