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Blog Excerpts

Why You'll Be Able to Play "Qajaq" in Scrabble

The new edition of the official Scrabble dictionary is being released, and with it come 5,000 new words that North American players will be able to make with their tiles. There are helpful two-letter words like DA, GI, PO, and TE, but perhaps most interesting are such oddities as QAJAQ and QUINZHEE. It turns out those are both Inuit words, included because the Canadian Oxford Dictionary is one of the sources. Read all about it in the National Post here.
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Last week, as part of the Lexicon Valley podcast, I talked about how the word discombobulate grew out of a vogue in the Jacksonian era for making up jocular polysyllabic words with a pseudo-classical air. That impulse for concocting silly-sounding sesquipedalianisms has often bubbled up in the history of English.  Continue reading...
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A peculiar feature of some adjectives ending in -y is their ability to take on a semantic life of their own, separate from the meaning of their root. A handful of food-based adjectives fit this pattern, in which an English learner would be at a great disadvantage in thinking that the adjective's meaning might be composable from its parts. Think of corny, meaty, fishy, and cheesy.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

What Do You Call a Group Selfie?

If a "selfie" is a photograph of oneself, then what do you call a self-portrait of a group of people? The Associated Press has a suggestion: "An 'usie,' of course! As in 'us.' Pronounced uss-ee, rhymes with 'fussy.'" Read the AP article, which quotes our own Ben Zimmer, here, and then check out Mark Peters' exploration of "selfie" variants here.
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On Lexicon Valley, Slate's podcast about language, I'm taking part in a regular feature. I come prepared with a mystery word, and the hosts have to guess the word itself and its origins. The first word didn't remain a mystery for very long: discombobulate.  Continue reading...
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When you visit your bank's website or enter a credit-card number, you've probably noticed that in the browser's address box, the URL begins with https. The "S" stands for "secure," and the security technology your browser uses for that "S" represents one of the great inventions in the history of secrets. In this piece I'll walk you through some of the terms of that rich field.  Continue reading...
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Grammar Girl, a.k.a. Mignon Fogarty, has been sharing short tips on usage and style with us. Her latest tip looks at the evolution of affirmative interjections, from yea and yes in Old English to yeah and yup in contemporary English.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 1015 Articles