7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 88 Articles

It was all over the news yesterday: according to a new poll from the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, whatever is the word that Americans find most annoying. The poll asked respondents which word or phrase bothered them the most, and whatever easily swamped the competition, with 47 percent naming it the most annoying. You know came in at 25 percent, it is what it is at 11 percent, anyway at 7 percent, and at the end of the day at 2 percent. Despite the widespread media attention, we should ask: does this poll really tell us anything useful?  Continue reading...
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In this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, I take over the "On Language" spot to pay tribute to the man who originated the column, William Safire. (You can already read the online version here.) It's not quite as personal as the remembrance I posted here after learning of Safire's death, but it's no less heartfelt. As preparation, I took a stroll through some of the thousands of columns that Safire produced over three decades, focusing especially on his first year of language punditry, 1979. Though many of his early columns stand the test of time, one example where he was less than on-target had to do with a popular peeve: "could care less."  Continue reading...
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William Safire passed away over the weekend at the age of 79, and his loss is felt particularly strongly by those who loyally followed his "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine for the past three decades. Safire retired from his Pulitzer Prize-winning political column for the Times in 2005, but he continued to relish his role as "language maven" to the very end. He was not simply a pundit on matters political and linguistic, however: he was also an extremely generous man, both publicly in his philanthropic work with the Dana Foundation and privately with friends and colleagues.  Continue reading...
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How Did People Sound in 1963?

The anachronistic dictionary that showed up recently on "Mad Men" was just the tip of the iceberg. Linguist John McWhorter argues that the supposedly authentic TV drama doesn't really capture how Americans spoke in the early '60s. Read all about it on his New Republic blog.
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The makers of the critically acclaimed TV drama "Mad Men" pride themselves on their meticulous attention to authentic period detail, lovingly recreating the early 1960s world of Madison Avenue admen. The show's prop masters are charged with getting every little thing right, from the prices on receipts to the secretaries' restrictive undergarments. So it's always a bit of a surprise to discover an anachronism lurking on the "Mad Men" set. The most recent episode featured one such historical goof, though only die-hard dictionary buffs would have noticed.  Continue reading...
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"Fail" Ever Upwards

Last Sunday, Visual Thesaurus executive producer Ben Zimmer filled in for William Safire's "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine, writing all about the word fail in its current use as a noun and interjection. Hear Ben talk more about the success of fail in an interview on the NPR show Future Tense.
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Stephen Fry: So Wrong It's Right

British comedian and public intellectual Stephen Fry has kicked off a new series of his BBC Radio 4 program on the English language, "Fry's English Delight." In "So Wrong It's Right," Fry "examines how 'wrong' English can become right English." Intrigued? You can hear the whole thing online, at least for the next week.
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7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 88 Articles