1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 34 Articles

When robot butlers earn their rightful place in Consumer Reports, I'll let that august publication determine whether the product under scrutiny is an "it" or a "him." At this point in the history of humankind, however, there's little cause for speculation as to what is or is not an animate object.  Continue reading...
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We welcome back Fitch O'Connell, a longtime teacher of English as a foreign language, working for the British Council in Portugal and other European countries. Fitch considers how a fun exercise in concocting collective nouns could be used as a tool for vocabulary expansion.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Watson's "Jeopardy!" Challenge

IBM's Watson super-computer is taking on two humans, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, on the game show "Jeopardy!" An earlier sparring partner, Greg Lindsay, discovered that ambiguous language was Watson's Achilles heel. Read about Lindsay's experience here. (And follow Visual Thesaurus editor Ben Zimmer's live-tweeting of the tournament on the VT Twitter feed.)
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Shows how educators can use the Visual Thesaurus to create customized spelling bees for their students to play.  Continue reading...
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In a publicity stunt, Toyota took out a New York Times ad, put out a YouTube video, and distributed a survey at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, asking the public what the plural of Prius should be, in a campaign announcing that there is going to be a family of Prius models. I hesitate to reward them with more publicity for such a willfully dumb question. But I can’t help myself. This is too good an excuse to talk about the wider topic of phony Latinate plurals. Well-played, Toyota.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

A Curse-Free Valentine's Day

For Valentine's Day, middle-school students in Mobile, Alabama have banded together to declare a daylong ban on curse words. "Getting schoolchildren to stop using profanity seems a Sisyphean task," reports The New York Times, but the anti-cursing movement is seen as an antidote to bullying. Read the article here.
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This weekend, instead of an "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine, I contribute a piece to the Times's Week in Review section, on how Egyptian protesters have been playing with language to make their case that President Hosni Mubarak must go. (Given his defiant "non-resignation" speech Thursday night, he's not taking the hint. Update: He got the hint!) Though most of the wordplay in the protests is in Arabic, a surprising amount is in English.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 34 Articles