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Apple's latest iPhone app will clean up your text messages and force you to brush up your French, or Spanish, or Japanese, all at the same time.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently approved patent 7,814,163, an Apple invention that can censor obscene or offensive words in text messages while doubling as a foreign-language tutor with the power to require, for example, "that a certain number of Spanish words per day be included in e-mails for a child learning Spanish."  Continue reading...
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This Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the premiere episode of "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert's endlessly entertaining sendup of political pundit programs. On that episode, Colbert introduced the word "truthiness," which has proved so popular that it has entered the latest edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary. For my On Language column in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colbert (as himself, not his put-upon persona) and learned the inside story of "truthiness." Here is an extended excerpt from our conversation.  Continue reading...
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The Baltimore Sun raised a ruckus among its readers by printing a certain four-letter word in a front-page headline on Tuesday. Here is the offending headline:

Opposing votes limn differences in race

Limn (pronounced like "limb") means "trace the shape of," "make a portrait of," or simply "describe." It isn't a word you see every day in newspaper headlines, and that bothered some Baltimoreans.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

The True Story of "Jumping the Shark"

"Jumping the shark," a phrase used to describe the moment a TV series goes downhill, alludes to a notorious episode of "Happy Days." Now the writer of the episode has spoken out in the Los Angeles Times. Read the story behind the phrase here.
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Ever since I wrote an On Language column for the New York Times Magazine about the authenticity of the dialogue on the AMC series "Mad Men," my inbox has been full of questions about words and phrases that have appeared on the show. The most recent episode, set in early 1965, was particularly rich in expressions that set off people's linguistic radar. Here's a look at four questionable examples from the episode.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

"Words": A Video

Filmmakers Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante have put together a short video that's a real treat for visual/verbal types, using striking images to play with the ambiguities of words. The video was made to accompany the latest episode of the WNYC show Radiolab, entitled "Words." Watch the video here and listen to the Radiolab episode here.
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A lot of silly things get written about the craft of dictionary-making, but a story that appeared last week in the London-based Daily Telegraph just might be the most nonsensical article about lexicography in recent memory. The breathless headline reads, "Secret vault of words rejected by the Oxford English Dictionary uncovered." What a scoop! Has the Telegraph blown the lid off a cabal of Dictionary Illuminati worthy of a Dan Brown novel? Yeah, not so much.  Continue reading...
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4 5 6 7 8 Displaying 36-42 of 93 Articles