Many verbs that entail some advanced cognitive capacity are commonly used in predicates for subjects that are not human. All speakers are comfortable with sentences like "Verizon revamps mobile plans and ends 2-year contracts & subsidies." Most speakers, however, reject sentences like "Microsoft is vividly imagining a purple square."  Continue reading...
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Alphabet, Google's new parent company, has generated lots of business buzz this week. But the choice of "Alphabet" for the company's name is equally newsworthy. Not only does it signal a departure from Google's blandly descriptive naming style — Google Plus, Google Maps, Google Mail, and so on — but it also takes an imaginative flight away from geek-speak and toward a universe of names inspired by language and literature.  Continue reading...
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When English-language Scrabble champ Nigel Richards, who does not speak French, won a French-language Scrabble championship, analysts rushed to analyze how much memorization that actually entailed. Ben Zimmer explains that to get a full understanding of Richards' achievement, a simple counting of words in the dictionary only gives a partial picture.  Continue reading...
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We're in the middle of one of the most important transitions in a democracy: from one Batman to another. But as the era of Ben Affleck (Batfleck) rapidly approaches, former Batman Christian Bale recently offered wise words to his successor on how he should be able to relieve himself.  Continue reading...
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Laughter is always good medicine, and today the Internet has put at our disposal the ability to draw it out through the combination in unexpected ways of two things that pervade modern culture: pictorial representation and vernacular language.  Continue reading...
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Jan Schreiber, a noted poet, critic, and translator, notes that traversing the border between American and British dialects of English can reveal unexpected complexities. "The challenge, if we choose to pose and accept it, is to translate one into the other," he writes.  Continue reading...
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For Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at the origins of an expression that turns nervousness and apprehension into a jokey malady: the heebie-jeebies. It turns out we can pin down not just the coiner but the very day that he coined the word.  Continue reading...
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