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Once upon a time, fellas, gentleman, and guys roamed the land. Eventually, we become dudes. Unfortunately, many of us became bros. Bro is also a staple of word-making. Based on sheer prolificness, bro may be the affix of the decade.  Continue reading...
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"Victuals" is one of those words that many people know by sound and sight but have not put sound and sight together. It's sort of like knowing someone by name and knowing someone by face, but not realizing the two are the same person. Until you accidentally find out, and it's usually embarrassing.  Continue reading...
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As I was searching Twitter while writing last month's column on bae, I occasionally found tweets saying things like, "Gonna turn up tonight with my bae!" Now why would someone find it newsworthy to announce that they were simply going to appear somewhere? Of course, not everything people tweet is newsworthy, but still, why such excitement over simply showing up?  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

How ALL CAPS Became Code for YELLING

Ever wonder why we think that someone who types a message in all capitalized letters appears to be YELLING? In The New Republic, Alice Robb digs deep into the roots of how the ALL CAPS style has been interpreted in the Internet era (with some help from our own Ben Zimmer in the digital archaeology department), and explains why excessive capitalization is bad netiquette. Read her piece here.
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We have occasionally invoked Tom Lehrer when discussing how the simple letter "e" can change the meaning of many words, citing his song "Silent 'E.'" That "e" can also magically change a word into another form, such as a noun into a verb. This being illogical English, there are few "rules" as to what it does, though.  Continue reading...
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One of the things everyone remembers about Shakespeare, whether they spent a few weeks on one play in high school or an entire semester on several plays in college, is that he wrote in iambic pentameter. Some may also have vague recollections about their teacher explaining that iambic pentameter isn't difficult to understand, because English "naturally" falls into its rhythms.  Continue reading...
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Whorfianism — the idea that language shapes thought, and each language creates a distinct worldview — is an appealing idea. But there's one problem: Whorfianism, at least dogmatic Whorfianism, is a huge load of bunk, at least according to John McWhorter's new book The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.  Continue reading...
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4 5 6 7 8 Displaying 36-42 of 771 Articles