Last August, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries published a list of words that they were adding to their dictionaries. Among them was neckbeard, which is listed as "A growth of hair on a man's neck." But this self-describing definition is not why the term was added. More interestingly, the term connotes someone with "poor grooming habits" and who's "socially inept."  Continue reading...
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Over the weekend, The New York Times presented an interactive quiz on newly prominent slang terms entitled "Are You On Fleek?" But what does "on fleek" mean, and how did it get to be such a trendy expression, especially on social media? Our resident linguist Neal Whitman investigates.  Continue reading...
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The public radio show "On the Media" notes that "in the age of Snowden and Manning, the term 'whistleblower' is increasingly present in our media. But where exactly did the word come from?" Brooke Gladstone talked to our executive editor Ben Zimmer for some historical background.  Continue reading...
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Last night, Jon Stewart announced that he will be retiring from Comedy Central's The Daily Show. We'll miss Stewart and his writing team for lots of reasons. But as dedicated vocabularians, we'll be especially sorry to see the end of Stewart's skewering of overhyped news through clever use of word blending, known as portmanteaus.  Continue reading...
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Turns out the American Dialect Society callously disregarded my selection of conscious uncoupling (Gwyneth Paltrow's cuckoo-bananas term for divorce) for Euphemism of the Year. Instead, these linguists, lexicographers, word mavens, and rogue wordanistas selected EIT: an abbreviation of enhanced interrogation techniques, which is a euphemism of a euphemism.  Continue reading...
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2015 is the International Year of Light. The Language Lounge will observe the solemnity of the occasion in a more low-tech way, by taking up the idea of light in language. It's one of the most productive concepts for metaphor in English.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

A Junior Dictionary Kerfuffle

"The lexicographic kerfuffle, thank goodness, isn't dead," writes Stefan Fatsis in The New Yorker. Fatsis is referring to the recent controversy over the Oxford Junior Dictionary, which has substituted all-natural words like "almond," "blackberry," and "minnow," with such 21st-century fare as "blog," "chatroom," and "database." Some noted writers have said they are "profoundly alarmed" by the changes. Read all about it here.
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