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When I was studying Spanish and had gotten to the point where our assignments consisted of reading real books, I kept a well-thumbed dictionary on my desk. Every paragraph seemed to contain several words that I had to look up, which was tedious and slow. Our wise teacher kept telling us that we didn't need to do that—you don't actually have to know what every word means to understand the text.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Baseball Lingo, from "Cup of Coffee" to "Southpaw"

With the baseball season underway, the sport's colorful lingo comes to the fore once again. Our own Ben Zimmer talked to KUOW-Seattle about the origins of some baseball terms, like "cup of coffee," "hitterish," and "southpaw." Catch the interview here.
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Blog Excerpts

Which Word Should Go Into the Next Scrabble Dictionary?

Hasbro, the company that makes Scrabble, is revising the game's official dictionary, and they're letting Scrabble fans pick one of the words to include. Some worthy contenders include zen, ew, and bestie. You can join in the Scrabble Word Showdown on Facebook here, and check out the authoritative take on Hasbro's contest from Stefan Fatsis on Slate here.
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Any word in a living language can develop different meanings in different contexts. These uses of the word can have distinct tones and qualities, with the result that one goes largely unnoticed while its twin draws regular complaints. For example, my bank recently sent me a form to fill in, which included the following instruction: Please advise your Country of Birth.  Continue reading...
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A few of my female friends have a fun hobby. Not knitting. Not kickboxing. Not baking pies. Not vampire-slaying. Hating Gwyneth Paltrow. I haven't fully grasped my friends' loathing in the past, but I'm beginning to understand, thanks to a humdinger of a euphemism Paltrow used to describe her impending divorce: conscious uncoupling.  Continue reading...
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With the teams competing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament whittled down to the Final Four, "March Madness" is coming to a close. (Actually, as has been the case for a few decades now, March Madness extends into the beginning of April, when the semifinal and final games are played.) In honor of college hoops, I've selected a "Final Four" of important terms associated with the tournament.  Continue reading...
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Having associated the interjection boo with ghosts since childhood, it took me a while to get used to it as a term of endearment for one's (presumably living) significant other. However, it's been around long enough by now that some of you may well have grown up with it. But never mind boo: it's time to get ready for bae, the latest monosyllabic pet name starting with B.  Continue reading...
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2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 1004 Articles