9 10 11 12 13 Displaying 71-77 of 327 Articles

In September, my younger child turned 16. The day before her birthday, I opened the mailbox and pulled out a blue envelope. Her paternal grandparents had sent her a card. Her face lit up, and not just because there was a check inside. She'd gotten mail.  Continue reading...
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My relationship with poetry has been troubled. It didn't start well. When I was a child, my father -- a diehard Brit, whose favorite breakfast was smoked kippers -- encouraged me to read Rudyard Kipling. I was seven. Not only had I never encountered war, I don't think I'd ever met a soldier. The pulsing rhythm of the verse commandeered my attention but the meaning skidded right over my head.  Continue reading...
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In his fascinating book (and 1994 best-seller) The Language Instinct, Stephen Pinker argues convincingly that we humans are born with an instinct to communicate with our voices. How humans in China form and arrange their communicative vocal sounds differs markedly from how humans in Finland do, but, Pinker asserts, beneath the many world's languages lies one universal language, an inborn ability to spin webs of words much as spiders spin webs of silk and beavers build dams of tree trunks and branches.  Continue reading...
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Your computer's keyboard has around 110 keys by which you can make your wishes known to the machine. Most of these have obvious labels: if you press the A key, the letter A appears on the screen. Some are less obvious, though — the Shift key and the mysterious Ctrl key — and in this article I'll explore why they're named what they're named.  Continue reading...
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Many of us postpone doing things we don't like. Taxes (guilty). Washing dishes (guilty, occasionally). Making the bed (at least I overcame this one 20 years ago). But the real doozie is writing. Why do so many of us defer, delay and shilly-shally about writing for so damn long?  Continue reading...
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In honor of National Punctuation Day, the Atlantic Wire asked "a few of our favorite writers and word-minded folks around the web" to name their favorite punctuation marks. Among the contributors was our own Ben Zimmer. Find out Ben's response and those of some other punctuation-loving writers below.  Continue reading...
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This week, there have been many celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the emoticon, the now-ubiquitous use of punctuation marks to mark emotion in online text. On September 19, 1982, at 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posted a message to a Carnegie Mellon bulletin board, proposing that :-) be used for marking jokes and :-( for non-jokes. Though Fahlman should get full credit for these pioneering smiley and frowny faces, there were in fact much earlier pioneers in expressive typography.  Continue reading...
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9 10 11 12 13 Displaying 71-77 of 327 Articles