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Just as a biologist can tell a critter from a creepy-crawly by the number of legs, euphemism enthusiasts can tell a 5-alarm, major-league, restaurant-quality euphemism by the presence of three words. Readers of previous columns may remember terms such as employee dialogue session, strategic dynamism effort, enhanced pension offer, life problem issue, taco meat filling,
and customer pain point
. Every time, three words = three metric tons of malarkey.
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It's September and students of all ages are heading back to school. But why is it back to school
and not back to the school
or back to schools
? Certainly if I were to write about one specific school, I would write the school
. If I were talking about schools as a category, I can say schools
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The situation in Syria has revived a number of well-worn foreign-policy phrases, from "boots on the ground" to "slam-dunks" and "smoking guns." As the American response to the conflict has involved far more in the way of words than deeds, it's worth taking a closer look at the words used by officials and commentators, no matter how hackneyed.
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is a versatile word that occupies a unique semantic space in English, with nodes corresponding to ideas of scarcity, superior quality, preference, payment, and reward. The ways in which the usage of premium
has changed in the last century or so have given premium
a kind of circuit-training workout, allowing it to exercise its meanings vigorously at each of these nodes at different times.