Here is the latest in a series of tips on usage and style shared by Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. With students returning to school, Mignon asks if they're best described as "anxious" or "eager."  Continue reading...
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"YOLO" Enters Oxford Dictionaries

Among the new words just added to Oxford Dictionaries is "YOLO," an acronym for "You Only Live Once." Loyal readers will recall that our own Ben Zimmer has been on the YOLO beat for a couple of years. Read his August 2012 Word Routes column, "Further Adventures of YOLO," here, and read about how his Boston Globe column helped put the word on the map here.
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Like has a new meaning. The word used to mean 'feel affection for,' 'take pleasure in,' or 'enjoy.' Now, thanks to Facebook, like can also mean, "Yes, I read what you wrote," or just a noncommittal "uh huh."  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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A peculiar feature of some adjectives ending in -y is their ability to take on a semantic life of their own, separate from the meaning of their root. A handful of food-based adjectives fit this pattern, in which an English learner would be at a great disadvantage in thinking that the adjective's meaning might be composable from its parts. Think of corny, meaty, fishy, and cheesy.  Continue reading...
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Adding to our collection of Beatles linguistic analysis (we've written about the iconic band's pronouns, nonsense sounds, and gear language) and in a manner reminiscent of recent analysis of rappers' vocabularies, the Liverpool Echo has conducted a vocabulary survey of British pop music, and concluded that the Beatles "have one of the smallest vocabularies in pop music."  Continue reading...
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On Lexicon Valley, Slate's podcast about language, I'm taking part in a regular feature. I come prepared with a mystery word, and the hosts have to guess the word itself and its origins. The first word didn't remain a mystery for very long: discombobulate.  Continue reading...
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