For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at a word with an origin story that seems too good to be true: grog, an alcoholic concoction, typically of rum and water, that has been making sailors groggy since the 18th century.  Continue reading...
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Today is "Cyber Monday," the day that retailers have anointed as the kickoff of the online holiday shopping season. "Cyber Monday" is a recent coinage, going back to a 2005 press release. "Black Friday," on which "Cyber Monday" is modeled, goes back to the early 1960s, and some newly discovered evidence illuminates its early use.  Continue reading...
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On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Americans kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang. We look back to a Word Routes column by lexicographer Ben Zimmer exploring the origins of the phrase "Black Friday." It is not, as many believe, the day when retailers' balance sheets change from red to black.  Continue reading...
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Although turkeys were domesticated by Native Americans, turkey itself is not a Native American word. In this excerpt from a new book The Language of Food, linguist and Stanford University professor Dan Jurafsky charts the complicated path the word turkey followed into English, then serves up a slice of etymological pecan pie.  Continue reading...
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In the latest installment of the Slate podcast "Lexicon Valley," I presented the hosts Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield with a bit of a mystery. Where did the expression "get one's goat" come from? Theories abound, but hard evidence of the phrase's early use has only recently come to light.  Continue reading...
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For my latest appearance on Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast, I quizzed the hosts Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield about a five-letter word that seemed to spring out of nowhere in online usage about a decade ago but in fact has roots that are centuries old: snark.  Continue reading...
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Is there any point in remaining "spoiler-free," steering clear of any crucial plot points of movies or television shows you haven't seen yet? That's the question raised by Netflix in its new "Living with Spoilers" campaign, and it set me off on a search for the roots of the "spoiler" in my latest column for the Wall Street Journal.  Continue reading...
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