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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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Recently, I came across a version of this sentence in a client document: "ABC Corp. hired XYZ Co. exclusively for testing multiple simulations in order to find the best solution." Did ABC Corp. hire just XYZ Co. or did it hire XYZ Co. just for testing? Although the sentence is grammatical, the meaning is ambiguous absent further context.  Continue reading...
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Now that we're in the brave new world of the 21st century, there may be a challenger to the monopoly that human languages enjoy in complex and fully functional grammars, and the challenge may come from robots. There is no need for alarm, but if the hunch of robotic researchers is confirmed, it's possible that in due course, a natural grammar will emerge from the robots' linguistic interactions.  Continue reading...
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Having associated the interjection boo with ghosts since childhood, it took me a while to get used to it as a term of endearment for one's (presumably living) significant other. However, it's been around long enough by now that some of you may well have grown up with it. But never mind boo: it's time to get ready for bae, the latest monosyllabic pet name starting with B.  Continue reading...
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Yesterday, March 23, 2014, marked the 175th anniversary of a word that may be the most widely used expression in the world: "OK." MacMurray College English professor Allan Metcalf says "OK" is America's greatest export and debunks the various origin theories surrounding it.  Continue reading...
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4 5 6 7 8 Displaying 36-42 of 767 Articles