By most reliable measures, 2016 has been a very good year for fiction lovers. I'm not talking here about literature; I'm talking about the opposite of fact. In mid-November, Oxford Dictionaries declared post-truth to be its word of the year. Indeed, it's been a banner year for all the words we have at our disposal to say, "Nope, it just ain't so."  Continue reading...
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As we look back at the language of the recent election, it's hard not to feel like political language has fallen into the sewer, and plummeted from there into a lower sewer, and might be still falling.  Continue reading...
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While millions of people are tweeting and retweeting every day, a small fraction of them are also subtweeting, and if news stories are to be believed, they are not doing so very successfully. Recent news stories alerted me to the idea of subtweeting and got me thinking about the conversational aspects of Tweets and their sub-cousins.  Continue reading...
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Are you a dreamer? I've had a few myself. That one where my pet lizard Ronnie convinced me to betray humanity to the alien lizards who control all governments was a doozy. Betraying Earth is one thing, but I would never have a pet lizard! But that's not the kind of dreamer that made a few recent headlines. Rather, a dreamer is an undocumented immigrant, usually a young person, who may have been brought to the U.S. as a child.  Continue reading...
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As the United States celebrates Presidents' Day, it's a good time to mull over how we ended up calling the national leader "president" in the first place. Executive editor Ben Zimmer spoke to NPR's All Things Considered about the term's history.  Continue reading...
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In the seventy-one columns I've written for the Visual Thesaurus, I've stuck to writing on writing, examining the art's principles and its quirks. But now with the presidential debates growing hot as autumn grows cold, I'd like to say a few words about the role of writing and politics in our democracy.  Continue reading...
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For the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I explored the peculiar origins of the word boondoggle, which took a strange trip from the world of Boy Scouts to the world of politics 80 years ago.  Continue reading...
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