7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 200 Articles

Last week, the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year honors went to the Twitter-friendly hashtag. But another techie term emerged in a less prestigious category, Least Likely to Succeed. Finishing in a virtual tie with the much-maligned acronym YOLO was phablet, a blend of phone and tablet coined for new devices that are not quite smartphones and not quite tablet computers.  Continue reading...
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A "Super" Word, Traced to Syracuse

"Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious," the sesquipedalian word made famous by Mary Poppins, has a peculiar and contentious history. Ben Zimmer told the story of his hunt for the word's origins, ending up in Syracuse, in his Word Routes column. Syracuse Post-Standard columnist Sean Kirst talked to Zimmer about the search in his latest column. Read it here.
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How often do you see an article about the search for the origin of a phrase on the homepage of the New York Times website? Just about... never. And yet the Times today has a story about the history of an expression that we've delved into a couple of times in this space: "the whole nine yards." Diligent word-sleuthing has turned up a rather unexpected predecessor: "the whole six yards."  Continue reading...
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In his latest Word Tasting Note, James Harbeck presents a baker's dozen of reasons why he likes lagniappe, a word meaning "a small gift, especially one given by a merchant to a customer who makes a purchase."  Continue reading...
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Americans are approaching an auspicious anniversary: it has been two hundred years since the first known appearance of "Uncle Sam" as an initialistic embodiment of the United States. The earliest example of "Uncle Sam" was found in the December 23, 1812 issue of the Bennington (Vermont) News-Letter. But another town not too far from Bennington — Troy, New York — has maintained that it is the true birthplace of Uncle Sam.  Continue reading...
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On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Americans kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang. In his Word Routes column last year, lexicographer Ben Zimmer explored 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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Last February, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned the House of Representatives that "under current law, on January 1st, 2013, there is going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases." Now, with the election over, President Obama and the lame-duck Congress are trying to figure out a way to avoid the "fiscal cliff." But where did the phrase come from? And is the cliff metaphor really so apt?  Continue reading...
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7 8 9 10 11 Displaying 57-63 of 200 Articles