Lying is one of those embarrassing things that demands euphemisms. No one wants to say "I lied" or "I fibbed" or "I wrote fan fiction." So when called on the carpet for a lie, people reach into the lexical abyss for euphemisms.  Continue reading...
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"I'm trying to stave off a cold," a friend said. Another responded, "Wine will work for that." Neither probably realized that, indeed, to "stave off" has its origins in wine, or something like wine.  Continue reading...
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Earlier this year the Associated Press Stylebook issued one of its frequent updates. "Do not use ride-sharing" to refer to services such as Uber and Lyft, the stylebook counseled; instead, use the modifier ride-booking or ride-hailing. It was the AP's quixotic bid to stem the increasingly common use of sharing to refer to a wide range of activities that are not quite as selfless as the word share may suggest.  Continue reading...
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For the latest installment of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at the peculiar history of the word pumpernickel — a kind of German bread with an origin that turns out to be downright devilish.  Continue reading...
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In The Atlantic, Peter Beinhart called out a euphemism that was somehow common and under-the-radar at the same time: "Newspaper editors, lend me your ears: Please, never allow the phrase 'muscular foreign policy' to blight your pages again."  Continue reading...
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At the 2015 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, it came down to a neck-and-neck battle between Dan Feyer and Tyler Hinman, the two titans of speed-solving. And in an absolutely heart-stopping finish, Dan beat Tyler by half a second.  Continue reading...
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People awakening from a "nightmare" often have the sensation that they can't breathe. Not surprising: That's where the word "nightmare" comes from.  Continue reading...
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