Garbage is such a trashy word. It suggests rubbish, waste, and, well, garbage. So why not put a positive spin on refuse with the term non-core assets? It applies equally well to financial garbage and garbage garbage, not to mention anything else that's not worth a lick.  Continue reading...
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I've spent 81.7% of my life watching Seinfeld, but I just realized I never mentioned a Seinfeldian euphemism in one of my columns. Bagel technician, meaning someone who makes bagels, is the preposterous title on Kramer's business card during "The Strike" episode, which is better known for launching the holiday Festivus.  Continue reading...
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We have another Euphemism of the Year candidate—and perhaps an entirely new category. In reference to her impending divorce, singer Jewel called the event a tender undoing, apparently seeking to create a more gibberish-soaked term than conscious uncoupling, which Gwyneth Paltrow famously used to describe her own divorce.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Why You'll Be Able to Play "Qajaq" in Scrabble

The new edition of the official Scrabble dictionary is being released, and with it come 5,000 new words that North American players will be able to make with their tiles. There are helpful two-letter words like DA, GI, PO, and TE, but perhaps most interesting are such oddities as QAJAQ and QUINZHEE. It turns out those are both Inuit words, included because the Canadian Oxford Dictionary is one of the sources. Read all about it in the National Post here.
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Last week, as part of the Lexicon Valley podcast, I talked about how the word discombobulate grew out of a vogue in the Jacksonian era for making up jocular polysyllabic words with a pseudo-classical air. That impulse for concocting silly-sounding sesquipedalianisms has often bubbled up in the history of English.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

What Do You Call a Group Selfie?

If a "selfie" is a photograph of oneself, then what do you call a self-portrait of a group of people? The Associated Press has a suggestion: "An 'usie,' of course! As in 'us.' Pronounced uss-ee, rhymes with 'fussy.'" Read the AP article, which quotes our own Ben Zimmer, here, and then check out Mark Peters' exploration of "selfie" variants here.
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