Last month I mentioned the odd new nonsense-clature lingerie company Neon Moon is using for their clothes: preposterously, numbered sizes are being replaced by lovely, beautiful, and gorgeous.That reminded me of the Arrested Development episode in which a new-age school gave Maeby Funke a crocodile rather than a C, in hopes of sparing her fragile, flower-like self-esteem. Somehow I forgot an even battier euphemism from the same episode.  Continue reading...
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This month marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona. The decision, handed down on June 13, 1966, ushered vocabulary into American English that is in nearly everyone's lexicon today, including Miranda Rights, Miranda Warnings, and even the verb mirandize, which means "recite the Miranda warnings (to a person under arrest)". Nearly 10 years after Miranda, philosopher of language Paul Grice began to develop his theory of conversational implicature and the Gricean Maxims that are part and parcel of it.  Continue reading...
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Garner's Modern English Usage, which just released its fourth edition, is potentially a damn useful thing to me. And after looking through Bryan A. Garner's latest, I can report that the potential is realized: this is an extremely useful and sensible guide. I don't know if I would sleep with it under my pillow, but I won't keep it far from my desk.  Continue reading...
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Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential candidate, briefly made headlines last month when it was announced that she'd signed a production deal for a TV "reality" show set in a courtroom. "She'll preside over the courtroom of common sense," according to Larry Lyttle, the man behind the deal. If the show materializes, it won't be the first time a politician has claimed "common sense" as a preeminent virtue.  Continue reading...
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One of the ways in which massive corpora (databases of natural language examples) have revolutionized lexicography is by providing access to a level of statistical analysis of language that was never before possible. The data in a corpus can tell us, with the effort of a few keystrokes—and backed by the effort of hundreds of person-hours of software development—all we need to know about the most frequent uses and collocations of words.  Continue reading...
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With what advertisers are coyly calling the "big game" looming this weekend, I decided it was time to follow up on a feeling that had been growing on me for a while: That I was hearing more and more people using super as an intensifier for adjectives, as in "I'm super excited!"  Continue reading...
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A time-honored ritual around the world at year's end is to nominate Words of the Year, originally inspired by TIME magazine's Person of the Year. But words can be much more different from each other than people are. People of the Year are normally distinguished by their great influence. Words of the Year bear myriad relationships to the things they represent and because of this, the ways in which they distinguish themselves are extremely divergent.  Continue reading...
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