It's time once again for the annual look back at the noteworthy words of the past year. Did you indulge in any manspreading or Columbusing this year? Were you concerned about dark money or plastigomerate? Here's a veritable vortex of words that rose to prominence in 2014.  Continue reading...
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For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at a word with an origin story that seems too good to be true: grog, an alcoholic concoction, typically of rum and water, that has been making sailors groggy since the 18th century.  Continue reading...
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I occasionally teach a class about using Microsoft Word. In one of the class exercises, students are asked to format a page, and the instructions tell them to "outdent" a heading. After I got several questions about that each class, I realized that lots of people have no idea what the term means.  Continue reading...
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When potential tourist-carrying SpaceShipTwo crashed, resulting in one death, you just knew there would be some euphemisms to explain the disaster. The euph of choice was anomaly.  Continue reading...
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Today is "Cyber Monday," the day that retailers have anointed as the kickoff of the online holiday shopping season. "Cyber Monday" is a recent coinage, going back to a 2005 press release. "Black Friday," on which "Cyber Monday" is modeled, goes back to the early 1960s, and some newly discovered evidence illuminates its early use.  Continue reading...
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On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Americans kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang. We look back to a Word Routes column by lexicographer Ben Zimmer exploring 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 year for Thanksgiving, I did something gastronomically delicious but linguistically impossible: I dry-brined my turkey. The very word brine implies water. Tons of sea-faring stories reference the briny deep as a euphemism for the salty sea. So what could a dry-brine possibly be?  Continue reading...
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