6 7 8 9 10 Displaying 50-56 of 205 Articles

During the five or so years that I have been writing the Word of the Day feature for the Visual Thesaurus, I have noticed a pattern: certain words in English that sound and feel just right — words that are easy to remember and fun to use because their sound seems to evoke the thing they stand for so well — are often of unknown, obscure, or disputed origins. Is this just a coincidence? Read on and decide for yourself.  Continue reading...
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Edward Snowden's leaking of National Security Agency information has put the term whistleblower back in the news. Since the early 1970s, whistleblower has come to be seen as a positive term, but before that it had been decidedly negative for many decades.  Continue reading...
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Some stories about word origins recall the old Italian saying, se è non vero, è ben trovato: even if it is not true, it is well invented. One such too-good-to-check story involves the sporting usage of upset, which, it is said, came to be because an unfavored horse named Upset beat the great thoroughbred Man o' War.  Continue reading...
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Last December I commemorated the two hundredth anniversary of what was then the first-known appearance of "Uncle Sam" as a personification of the United States, which turned up in a Bennington, Vermont newspaper. Now, just in time for the Fourth of July, comes new evidence that "Uncle Sam" was in use as early as 1810, more than two years before the phrase's popularization in the War of 1812.  Continue reading...
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Early trailers for movies are often teasers, which do little more than tell fans that some movie is in the works. But as the release date approaches, these trailers give away key moments of the plot and spoil the experience for many viewers. In earlier years, you teased people and spoiled things. But you can now tease things and spoil people. What happened?  Continue reading...
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"There are some old words," explains Arika Okrent on Mental Floss, "that are nearly obsolete but we still recognize because they were lucky enough to get stuck in set phrases that have lasted across the centuries." Okrent lists a dozen "lucky words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms."  Continue reading...
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It's April, which means that the major league baseball season is once again under way. Time to celebrate America's favorite pastime with a look at the origins of words from the baseball diamond.  Continue reading...
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6 7 8 9 10 Displaying 50-56 of 205 Articles