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is a versatile word that occupies a unique semantic space in English, with nodes corresponding to ideas of scarcity, superior quality, preference, payment, and reward. The ways in which the usage of premium
has changed in the last century or so have given premium
a kind of circuit-training workout, allowing it to exercise its meanings vigorously at each of these nodes at different times.
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When Oxford Dictionaries announced that its quarterly update would include the word twerk
, a term for a particularly racy dance style, the timing was perfect: just two days earlier, Miley Cyrus had created a sensation by "twerking" at MTV's Video Music Awards. The result, writes our own Ben Zimmer, was a "perfect lexicographical storm."
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There is a new trend in concierge medicine
, with concierge practices
consisting of concierge doctors, concierge physicians,
or maybe concierge dentists,
all offering their versions of concierge healthcare
. How did the word for the guy in the hotel lobby who can get you show tickets, a restaurant reservation, or almost anything else you need, come to refer to this kind of ultra-personalized medical care?
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"We have to turn the page on the bubble-and-bust mentality," President Obama said in a recent weekly address. After the economic ruin of the housing bubble, it's hard to argue with that sentiment. But "bubbles" have long been with us — the metaphor of the bubble has been applied to fragile financial schemes for nearly three centuries, originating as a literary device.