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Want to insult someone in Japanese? Try misokakku ('scum of soya paste'). In Polish, try motyla noga ('butterfly's leg'), and in Turkish, muhallebi ├žocuğu ('child of pudding'). These and hundreds of other colorful put-downs from around the world can be found in the delightful new book, Uglier Than a Monkey's Armpit by Stephen Dodson and Dr. Robert Vanderplank. We spoke about the book with Dodson, known to many language lovers by his nom de blog, Languagehat.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Behind the Dictionary.

The minimalist billboard gets our attention: black capital letters against a stark white background. But the words spelled out by those letters are cryptic: SWORE RAY. Swore Ray? Ray swore? What did he say? And what do his profanities have to do with the advertiser, the Monte Carlo resort and casino in Las Vegas?  Continue reading...
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In this opening chapter of Vocabulary at the Center, veteran teachers Amy Benjamin and John T. Crow explain how words can function as "gateways" to student knowledge and academic achievement.  Continue reading...
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In this weekend's New York Times Magazine, I'm the guest writer for the "On Language" column while William Safire is on vacation. I use my pinch-hitting spot to look at recent developments with the word fail, which in online usage has transformed from a verb to an interjection and a noun (and even sometimes an adjective). But truth be told, fail is only the most prominent example of a much wider phenomenon, with a whole series of expressive words getting similar treatment.  Continue reading...
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Wendalyn Nichols, editor of the Copyediting newsletter, offers useful tips to copy editors and anyone else who prizes clear and orderly writing. Here she takes aim at "corporate speak" at its most infuriating.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Olbermann Salutes Ben Zimmer

For his debunking of the myth that Swedish and Dutch news anchors are called "Cronkiters," Visual Thesaurus executive producer Ben Zimmer was named "second best person in the world" on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show "Countdown." Watch the video here!
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In this month's Evasive Maneuvers column, our master of euphemisms tackles food and the consequences of food — on earth and in the cosmos.

Recently, aboard the International Space Station, a crisis struck!  Continue reading...
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