When I open an email that a spam filter has misdirected I'm rarely in doubt about whether it is or isn't spam, and the basis of my certainty is nearly always linguistic. For me, the reasons that spam fails so colossally to convince can be divided into two convenient categories of linguistic analysis: lexical and pragmatic.  Continue reading...
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The American Dialect Society will be meeting in early January to present papers and share research about our ever-evolving language. They'll also pick the Word of the Year, along with many other categories—including Euphemism of the Year. Here's a list of suggested contenders.  Continue reading...
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When I recently heard a news reporter say that "China doesn't want a failed nuclear state on their doorstep," I was taken by surprise. Did China seriously want North Korea to succeed in their nuclear ambitions?  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Ben Zimmer Wins LSA's Linguistics Journalism Award

The Linguistic Society of America today named Vocabulary.com-Visual Thesaurus Executive Producer Ben Zimmer as the first recipient of the Linguistics Journalism Award. The award honors "the journalist whose work best represents linguistics" during the past 12 months. In addition to his stellar work on Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus, the LSA singled out Zimmer's language column in the Wall Street Journal, as well as "articles on linguistic topics for the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Slate's 'Lexicon Valley' blog, and Language Log."
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A new online magazine, Popular Linguistics, kicks off with its first issue this week. The issue includes an invited essay by Lauren Hall-Lew, Lecturer in Sociolinguistics at the University of Edinburgh, entitled "Why Do I Do What I Do?" Here's an excerpt.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Telling the Life Stories of Words

The University of Chicago website is featuring an article about three alumni who have become "ambassadors of lexicography" and are "putting a public face on modern language studies": Jesse Sheidlower of the Oxford English Dictionary, Erin McKean of Wordnik, and Ben Zimmer of the Visual Thesaurus. Read the article here.
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Blog Excerpts

Zimmer and McWhorter on Bloggingheads

On Bloggingheads, Visual Thesaurus executive producer Ben Zimmer joins fellow linguist John McWhorter to talk about a wide range of language issues, from new approaches to the teaching of English to the language of "Mad Men." Watch the conversation here.
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