9 10 11 12 13 Displaying 71-77 of 188 Articles

This weekend I had the opportunity to ruminate about the self-consciously self-referential word meta for NPR's "All Things Considered" and for my language column in the Sunday Boston Globe. That's an awful lot of meta-commentary, but I've still got some more thoughts on meta, or make that meta-thoughts on meta.  Continue reading...
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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So many of us learned that outrageous mouthful of a word at an early age, when it was truly a verbal milestone to be able to pronounce it without getting tongue-tied. And just saying the word is an invitation to start singing the song from the classic 1964 Disney movie Mary Poppins. But how did the word come to be? When I heard the news that one of the Mary Poppins songwriters passed away last month, I set about to answer that question, taking me down many unexpected alleyways of 20th-century popular culture.  Continue reading...
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As a teenager, I got the impression that an easy way to make any insult extra-offensive was to say it carelessly, as if you were drunk. But eventually I realized that a slur is not a mumbled remark expressing general disrespect about someone. On the other hand, even the most carefully enunciated insult can qualify as a slur, provided it's grounded in race, religion, or other historical bases for discrimination.  Continue reading...
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The good times were back on Wall Street, the news report said. Executives of an banking firm were staying at "some luxury digs in New Dehli." But, the report added, "This is not a pure junket, to be sure." The executives would also be conducting some business.  Continue reading...
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When I was struggling with a cold that left me empty of writing ideas, I asked the Twitterverse for help. One follower suggested that I stick with my cold and look into the phrase "God bless you." It proved to be a more daunting task than I anticipated, even once my head cleared.  Continue reading...
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Today is opening day for Major League Baseball, though the only game on the schedule is in far-off Tokyo, where the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics are beginning a two-game series. But let's cast our minds back to opening day a century ago. On April 2, 1912, in a Pacific Coast League game between the Portland Beavers and the Los Angeles Angels, a pitcher uncorked his "jazz ball" — and possibly helped set into motion a chain of events that brought the word jazz together with the music it named.  Continue reading...
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In his new book The Story of English in 100 Words, the absurdly prolific David Crystal provides a unique answer to a question he poses: "How can we tell the story of the English language?"  Continue reading...
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9 10 11 12 13 Displaying 71-77 of 188 Articles