If you're looking for proof of the English language's remarkable flexibility, enter the word hack into the New York Times's search field. The newest results will include a mention of "hack politicians" and a reference to "the suspected hack of Sony Pictures by North Korea" in 2014.  Continue reading...
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Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential candidate, briefly made headlines last month when it was announced that she'd signed a production deal for a TV "reality" show set in a courtroom. "She'll preside over the courtroom of common sense," according to Larry Lyttle, the man behind the deal. If the show materializes, it won't be the first time a politician has claimed "common sense" as a preeminent virtue.  Continue reading...
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After last month's keen analysis of remix—perhaps the most obnoxious euphemism for a layoff ever—fellow contributor Nancy Friedman tweeted me another example from this bottomless genre: "A friend was told that her layoff was 'a continuation of growth that was started in the department a couple of years ago.'"  Continue reading...
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While college basketball fans may be marveling at the exciting upsets of March Madness, the world of competitive crossword solving has experienced a major upset as well, as six-time reigning champion Dan Feyer was dethroned in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, losing out to first-time champ Howard Barkin.  Continue reading...
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One of the ways in which massive corpora (databases of natural language examples) have revolutionized lexicography is by providing access to a level of statistical analysis of language that was never before possible. The data in a corpus can tell us, with the effort of a few keystrokes—and backed by the effort of hundreds of person-hours of software development—all we need to know about the most frequent uses and collocations of words.  Continue reading...
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Have we already seen the Euphemism of the Year? It's possible, euphemism enthusiasts: brace yourselves for a major-league, double-tongued, weapons-grade whopper of a doozy.  Continue reading...
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As the United States celebrates Presidents' Day, it's a good time to mull over how we ended up calling the national leader "president" in the first place. Executive editor Ben Zimmer spoke to NPR's All Things Considered about the term's history.  Continue reading...
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