For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at a word with an origin story that seems too good to be true: grog, an alcoholic concoction, typically of rum and water, that has been making sailors groggy since the 18th century.  Continue reading...
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I occasionally teach a class about using Microsoft Word. In one of the class exercises, students are asked to format a page, and the instructions tell them to "outdent" a heading. After I got several questions about that each class, I realized that lots of people have no idea what the term means.  Continue reading...
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In an interview with BBC Future, Ben Zimmer, executive editor of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus, weighed in on the question, "Is technology changing language?" Watch this video to find out why the pace of change in language right now makes this an "exhilarating time."  Continue reading...
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Have you ever sent a really EPIC tweet? There are different ways to answer that question: I'll proceed with one way that probably doesn't occur to you. The EPIC tweets under the microscope here are tweets that are of interest to Project EPIC — that is, Empowering the Public with Information in Crisis.  Continue reading...
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On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Americans kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang. We look back to a Word Routes column by lexicographer Ben Zimmer exploring the origins of the phrase "Black Friday." It is not, as many believe, the day when retailers' balance sheets change from red to black.  Continue reading...
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Last year for Thanksgiving, I did something gastronomically delicious but linguistically impossible: I dry-brined my turkey. The very word brine implies water. Tons of sea-faring stories reference the briny deep as a euphemism for the salty sea. So what could a dry-brine possibly be?  Continue reading...
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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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