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Blog Excerpts

The Remarkable History of "Y'all"

Ben Trawick-Smith is an actor with a deep interest in English dialects. On his Dialect Blog, he takes on a range of interesting linguistic issues. One recent post traces the history of the pronoun y'all: "One word. Two continents. Three shores. Four centuries. Five separate dialects. Wow." Read the fascinating story here.

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The baseball season is in full swing now, and as a long-suffering fan of the New York Mets, I've learned to content myself with the small pleasures of the game. The Mets started the season with a road trip, going 3-3 — not bad, I'll take it. Pitching in today's home opener at Citi Field is R.A. Dickey, who has emerged as a fan favorite, not just for his way with a knuckleball, but for his way with words.  Continue reading...
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Is there any logogram as elegant as the ampersand?

It's no wonder we're still using this ancient ligature millennia after it first appeared. Thanks to texting and tweeting, it's more popular than ever. After all, why expend three precious characters on "and" when the ampersand can do the job in one?  Continue reading...

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Weekly Worksheet

Investigating the Prefix "Mal-"

If you see a word that begins with the three letters m-a-l, do you get an uneasy feeling? Well, if you don't, maybe you should. This week's worksheet asks students to explore four common words beginning with the Latin prefix mal on the Visual Thesaurus and discover what all of their meanings have in common. Click here to find the worksheet, and here to read the related lesson plan, “Rooting One’s Way to Meaning.”

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Instead of having students turn to the “Poetry” section of their crusty literature anthologies, have them turn to these wonderful web sites for ideas about how to celebrate National Poetry Month with some gusto.  Continue reading...
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Charlie Sheen's ongoing meltdown has been a godsend for the lexicon. (Read VT supreme commander Ben Zimmer, Slate's Christopher Beam, or me for more.) But what has he done for the wild world of euphemisms?  Continue reading...
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Once upon a time, in a suburban St. Louis County high school almost thirty years ago, there studied a girl who couldn’t seem to write an essay to save her life. She watched the papers come back. AP European History—D-. AP English—C. But owing to smaller class sizes and tenacious teachers who bled all over her paper with red ink, this girl began to see her mistakes. She tightened. She tweaked. She revised. She edited.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 22-28 of 31 Articles