Blog Excerpts

Oxford's Word of the Year is "Vape"

The editors at Oxford Dictionaries have selected their choice for 2014 Word of the Year, and it is "vape," defined as "to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device." Check out Oxford's announcement here. Our contributor Nancy Friedman was on the case back in 2010, in her column, "But Wait, There's Less!" (Nancy also named "vape" one of her Words of 2013.)
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Oversight has two rather contrasting meanings. There's oversight-1: "an unintentional omission resulting from failure to notice something"—something you generally want to avoid. And there's oversight-2: "management by overseeing the performance or operation of a person or group"—something that in a perfect world would happen all the time, and would ideally prevent a lot of oversight-1s from happening. Why use the same word to designate such contrasting things?  Continue reading...
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Ripped. Slapped. Poked. Swatted. If you've been watching the World Series, you've probably heard some of these verbs for hitting a baseball. Sports can involve a lot of repetition, so to make it different and exciting, sportscasters often use a wide variety of terms to describe the action. It is this variety that makes sports lingo an interesting object of study.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Ben Zimmer Wins LSA's Linguistics Journalism Award

The Linguistic Society of America today named Vocabulary.com-Visual Thesaurus Executive Producer Ben Zimmer as the first recipient of the Linguistics Journalism Award. The award honors "the journalist whose work best represents linguistics" during the past 12 months. In addition to his stellar work on Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus, the LSA singled out Zimmer's language column in the Wall Street Journal, as well as "articles on linguistic topics for the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Slate's 'Lexicon Valley' blog, and Language Log."
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Anyone who works for a large organization (or maybe even a small one) knows that certain phrases grab people's imagination and spread through the organization. If you're like me, you go to meetings and presentations and expressions keep popping up, which is very distracting — you try to listen to what the speaker is saying, but you end up paying more attention to how they're saying it.  Continue reading...
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As Americans celebrate Columbus Day, it's worth reflecting on the complicated cultural and linguistic legacy that Christopher Columbus left behind. There's a single word that aptly illustrates this legacy and all of its contradictions: Indians, the mistaken name that Columbus gave to the native peoples of the Americas.  Continue reading...
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Are you baffled by the perplexing terminology favored by American politicians and pundits? A new book by Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark is here to help. Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes is an informative and humorous guide to deciphering contemporary political lingo. Here we present an excerpt from the book's introduction.  Continue reading...
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