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Blog Excerpts

One Troop, Many Troops

As Veterans Day is observed in the United States, a question of military usage continues to pose a puzzle: if "50,000 troops" refers to 50,000 people, then does "one troop" refer to one person? Linguist Neal Whitman looked into the matter on Veterans Day in 2009. Check out his column here.
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Verizon offers "Even faster FiOS Quantum Internet" speeds. Duracell has a new Quantum alkaline battery. James Bond had his Quantum of Solace. Any number of companies have "quantum" in their names as well. The implication is that "quantum" is something big and powerful, with a hint of science behind it.  Continue reading...
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Oversight has two rather contrasting meanings. There's oversight-1: "an unintentional omission resulting from failure to notice something"—something you generally want to avoid. And there's oversight-2: "management by overseeing the performance or operation of a person or group"—something that in a perfect world would happen all the time, and would ideally prevent a lot of oversight-1s from happening. Why use the same word to designate such contrasting things?  Continue reading...
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Here's the latest in our series of quick tips on usage and style shared by Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. Mignon points out a common confusion that might leave you star-crossed.  Continue reading...
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Ripped. Slapped. Poked. Swatted. If you've been watching the World Series, you've probably heard some of these verbs for hitting a baseball. Sports can involve a lot of repetition, so to make it different and exciting, sportscasters often use a wide variety of terms to describe the action. It is this variety that makes sports lingo an interesting object of study.  Continue reading...
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For my latest appearance on Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast, I quizzed the hosts Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield about a five-letter word that seemed to spring out of nowhere in online usage about a decade ago but in fact has roots that are centuries old: snark.  Continue reading...
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When the ABC-TV sitcom "Black-ish" debuted in September, it joined a growing set of titles and brands built on the odd little ish suffix. There's a lot more to ish than "sort of" and "more or less." Here's a brand-by-brand rundown of the ish spectrum.  Continue reading...
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