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Articles from APRIL 2012
The New Yorker's "Eliminate a Word" Contest
April 24, 2012
The New Yorker asked its Twitter followers, if you could eliminate one word from the English language, what would it be? The most-tweeted suggestion turned out to be moist, a word that also bothers many Visual Thesaurus subscribers. Despite the mass aversion to moist, the editors declared another word the winner: slacks. Read all about it here.
Exploring the pathways of our lexicon
April 23, 2012By Ben Zimmer
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So many of us learned that outrageous mouthful of a word at an early age, when it was truly a verbal milestone to be able to pronounce it without getting tongue-tied. And just saying the word is an invitation to start singing the song from the classic 1964 Disney movie Mary Poppins. But how did the word come to be? When I heard the news that one of the Mary Poppins songwriters passed away last month, I set about to answer that question, taking me down many unexpected alleyways of 20th-century popular culture. Continue reading...
The big news in the copy editing world this week was the revelation that the Associated Press Stylebook would no longer hold the line against the long-stigmatized use of "hopefully" as a sentence adverb to mean "It is hoped." The announcement elicited some strong reactions both pro and con. Here is a roundup of some of the online responses to the stylebook change. Continue reading...
Behind the Dictionary
Lexicographers Talk About Language
April 19, 2012By Neal Whitman
As a teenager, I got the impression that an easy way to make any insult extra-offensive was to say it carelessly, as if you were drunk. But eventually I realized that a slur is not a mumbled remark expressing general disrespect about someone. On the other hand, even the most carefully enunciated insult can qualify as a slur, provided it's grounded in race, religion, or other historical bases for discrimination. Continue reading...
Writers Talk About Writing
April 18, 2012By Merrill Perlman
The good times were back on Wall Street, the news report said. Executives of an banking firm were staying at "some luxury digs in New Dehli." But, the report added, "This is not a pure junket, to be sure." The executives would also be conducting some business. Continue reading...
Fine, call me a Luddite or, even worse, a late adopter, but I say, Kindle-schmindle, Nook-schnook, give me a good old-fashioned book.Yes, I have adopted, step by reluctant step, each new advance of the digital realm, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia and all the rest, and I've grown used to the virtual media's constant changing despite my constant grousing. Continue reading...
I am a lazy but honest man, so I have to admit my first thought when looking at The Language Wars by Henry Hitchings was not so noble. Noting the lengthiness (300+ pages) and a small font size, I thought, "Uh oh. Why did I agree to review this? I could be watching Justified." As I plowed into the book, my fears turned out to be unwarranted. In fact, my fears turned out to be ridiculous, as fears tend to be. Continue reading...