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High/low, yes/no, black/white. There's something reassuring about opposites. A lot of vocabulary teaching is done using pairs of opposites, and with good reason: learners really feel they have a handle on a concept if they grasp its antithesis. There are, however, some other concept families that are best learned using three terms — triples — that provide a middle ground which in turn enhances all three concepts.  Continue reading...
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Word on the Street: New Wall Street Journal Column

Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com, has been writing a language column for the last couple of years for The Boston Globe (and before that for The New York Times Magazine). Now he is starting a new language column for The Wall Street Journal called "Word on the Street." Each week he will focus on a word in the news and examine its history. In his first column, he looks at how cyber is showing up with increasing frequency as a noun. Check it out here.
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American courtrooms can produce some fascinating linguistic specimens. Two high-profile court cases have put language on display. In Boston, the trial of mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger has provided testimony full of old-school crime lingo. Meanwhile, at the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion on the Defense of Marriage Act featured some "legalistic argle-bargle."  Continue reading...
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"How long did you have to queue up?" I asked my brother about a concert he'd attended, just after I got back from a trip to the UK. "You're back in America now, Shannon," he teased me. "We don't queue up here, we line up!" He had a point, but I'd like to think my word choice was not merely the result of my Anglophile tendencies.  Continue reading...
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It's time once again for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and the big news going into this year's competition is the inclusion of vocabulary questions along with the traditional spelling questions. Even though the new multiple-choice questions testing contestants' knowledge of definitions will only appear in the off-stage computerized portions of the Bee, it's still a controversial shift in format.  Continue reading...
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On the last Monday in May, Memorial Day is celebrated in the United States. But wait: is celebrated the right word? Would it be more appropriate to say Memorial Day is observed? Wendalyn Nichols, an experienced editor and lexicographer, guides us through this usage quandary.  Continue reading...
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"Lean in," thanks to the title of a new book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, has become "the idiom of the moment," Motoko Rich writes in the New York Times, adding "the phrase seems to have taken on a life of its own." But where did all of this "leaning in" come from?  Continue reading...
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4 5 6 7 8 Displaying 36-42 of 748 Articles