1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 200 Articles

Just in time for the 4th of July, our own Ben Zimmer investigates how the term "Yank" started off as a term of disparagement but was reclaimed as an expression of patriotic pride in settings from world wars to the World Cup.  Continue reading...
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Tradecraft, which has been spy jargon since at least the 1960s, has been making its way into more mainstream consciousness recently, as we hear about operations like the search for Osama bin Laden, or about Edward Snowden's training as a spy. It's a good example of how words with seemingly transparent meanings can settle into semantic idiosyncrasy through historical circumstance.  Continue reading...
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I am guessing that the average electrician doesn't realize how much history is knocking about in his or her toolbox. Volt, amp, ohm, watt—these electrical units are all eponyms, derived from the names of pioneers in the field. Let's have a tour.  Continue reading...
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Six years ago, Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, stirred up some controversy over the origins of the famous Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Shapiro cast doubt on the popular attribution of the saying to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. But now Shapiro has gained some serenity of his own by concluding that Niebuhr really did originate the prayer.  Continue reading...
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"Victuals" is one of those words that many people know by sound and sight but have not put sound and sight together. It's sort of like knowing someone by name and knowing someone by face, but not realizing the two are the same person. Until you accidentally find out, and it's usually embarrassing.  Continue reading...
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Baseball Lingo, from "Cup of Coffee" to "Southpaw"

With the baseball season underway, the sport's colorful lingo comes to the fore once again. Our own Ben Zimmer talked to KUOW-Seattle about the origins of some baseball terms, like "cup of coffee," "hitterish," and "southpaw." Catch the interview here.
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With the teams competing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament whittled down to the Final Four, "March Madness" is coming to a close. (Actually, as has been the case for a few decades now, March Madness extends into the beginning of April, when the semifinal and final games are played.) In honor of college hoops, I've selected a "Final Four" of important terms associated with the tournament.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 200 Articles