People awakening from a "nightmare" often have the sensation that they can't breathe. Not surprising: That's where the word "nightmare" comes from.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Word Count.

When the Academy Awards were given out last month, entertainment news was full of commentary about which movies, directors and performers should have been nominated but weren't—who got snubbed by those snobs in the Academy. That made me wonder if snub and snob were etymologically related.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Behind the Dictionary.

On the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at the roots of the festive word carnival, associated with pre-Lenten celebrations around the Christian world. Some scholars speculate that the true origins of carnival actually lie in pagan rituals predating Christianity.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Word Routes.

Over the weekend, The New York Times presented an interactive quiz on newly prominent slang terms entitled "Are You On Fleek?" But what does "on fleek" mean, and how did it get to be such a trendy expression, especially on social media? Our resident linguist Neal Whitman investigates.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Behind the Dictionary.

The public radio show "On the Media" notes that "in the age of Snowden and Manning, the term 'whistleblower' is increasingly present in our media. But where exactly did the word come from?" Brooke Gladstone talked to our executive editor Ben Zimmer for some historical background.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Blog Excerpts.

Etymology can take some peculiar turns as a word criss-crosses different cultures. For the latest installment of Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast, I take the hosts along on the journey of the word cockamamie, which might seem stranger than fiction.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Word Routes.

Blog Excerpts

The Story Behind Stuart Scott's "Booyah!"

ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott died of cancer over the weekend, and tributes to him have noted his ebullient use of slang, especially his signature word, "Booyah!" For Slate's Lexicon Valley blog, our own Ben Zimmer traces the origins of "Booyah!" back to a hip-hop imitation of gunfire. Read all about it here.
Click here to read more articles from Blog Excerpts.

1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 216 Articles