7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 323 Articles

If there's one expression that seems to have taken over the media landscape lately, it's "doubling down." Deriving from the game of blackjack, "doubling down" has taken on a figurative meaning over the past couple of decades: "to engage in risky behavior, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation," as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it. So why is everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Clinton talking about risk-taking in this way? And when is it considered a good thing?  Continue reading...

Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which he nominated President Obama for re-election, has been hailed as a rhetorical tour de force. The press corps marveled at how Clinton used the prepared speech as a mere starting point, injecting his remarks with ad-libbed folksiness. The result was a speech that managed to elucidate wonky policy specifics in the homespun style of a Southern preacher.  Continue reading...

Last week on NPR's Morning Edition, sports commentator Frank Deford said in a piece about Serena Williams and her volatile style that "the proof is in the pudding." After a listener questioned the usage, I was called in to be the arbiter on the idiomatic expression. Is the proof in the pudding? Or is the proof of the pudding in the eating?  Continue reading...

Can a simple slangy acronym mark a generation gap? YOLO, short for "You Only Live Once," has emerged as an age-based shibboleth: all too familiar to members of the millennial set, and all but meaningless to their elders. In my latest Boston Globe column, I dissect the YOLO phenomenon, but there's much more to say about those four letters.  Continue reading...

If there's one thing that dictionary publishers have learned, it's that announcing new words added to their latest editions is good for generating some media attention — and also generating public hand-wringing over what the new entries say about the state of our society and our language.  Continue reading...

In two recent articles, The New York Times has reported on culture wars involving "hipsters": locals in the Long Island town of Montauk are suffering from "hipster fatigue," while in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the hipsters are battling with new parents and their babies. All of this raises the question: where did the term hipster come from? Does it have something to do with hippies? And what about the even older term, hepcat?  Continue reading...

"The whole nine yards," meaning "the full extent of something," remains one of the most puzzling idioms for word-watchers. Everyone seems to have their own explanation for where the expression comes from, and yet there is still no definitive origin story for it. This is surprising for a phrase that's not terribly old: scattered uses can be found from the 1960s, and now it's been pushed back a bit earlier, to 1956.  Continue reading...

7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 323 Articles