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I recently made my way to Bloomington, Indiana for the biennial conference of the Dictionary Society of North America, a sublime convergence of unabashed word-nerdery. There was a fascinating array of paper presentations, on everything from grand old men like Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster to cutting-edge techniques in online lexicography. But one paper that I found particularly enjoyable had to do with a Victorian-era "Anglo-Indian glossary" that has had remarkable staying power over the past century or so, perhaps in part due to its memorable title: Hobson-Jobson. The paper, by Traci Nagle of Indiana University, took a look at exactly how the dictionary ended up with such a peculiar name.  Continue reading...
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Euphemisms, like bedbugs and zombies, never strike when you expect them; they're always lurking under a pillow or zombie master that seemed so harmless.

So imagine my delight when, right here in the pages of Visual Thesaurus, I read about one of the most delicious, audacious, egregious, preposterous euphemisms of my lifetime or yours — frozen popsicle as a synonym for homework.  Continue reading...
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A 47-million-year-old fossil of a newly discovered primate species has been trumpeted in the media as "the missing link" in human evolution. Nicknamed "Ida," the fossil is remarkably well-preserved, but paleontologists have scoffed at the "missing link" claim: it's not even clear if Ida is a close relative of us anthropoids, and in any case, the whole metaphor of "the missing link" only really works in the outdated model of evolution as a linear chain or ladder. But all the hoopla surrounding Ida inspired Nature editor Henry Gee to ask (via Twitter), how long have people been using the expression "the missing link"?  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts


Why say "blizzard" when you could say "snow-mageddon"? And why refer to the "swine flu outbreak" when you could say "a-pork-alypse"? Visual Thesaurus contributor Mark Peters considers some catastrophic coinages in his latest column for Good.
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We left off last month on the horns of the dictionary publishers' dilemma: how do you keep a flagship title in print when it costs far more to produce it than it will ever generate in sales? We noted the lure of electronic licensing rights as a factor that might influence the way dictionaries are put together and marketed in the future; and we heard from a few readers who, not unpredictably, lamented any future in which dictionaries in book form were not available.  Continue reading...
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Since there never seems to be enough time for in-class vocabulary instruction, this excerpt from Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, by Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan, can help teachers decide which "Tier Two" words to prioritize.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 29-34 of 34 Articles