1 2 Displaying 1-7 of 11 Articles

For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at the clownish roots of the word bozo. While the image of TV's Bozo the Clown is familiar to many generations of American youth, how did Bozo get his name in the first place? The answer may lie in vaudeville.  Continue reading...
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Have you ever struggled to explain a nuclear meltdown caused by an incredibly stupid mistake? You would have been grateful for alternative terms, such as "a core rearrangement caused by an ill-advised learning opportunity." You can find these terms and more in Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceitful Language.  Continue reading...
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Sunday is the longest day of the year and the official start to summer. To get ready, we're taking a look at the words and terms enshrined in our language that capture our collective experience of the summer season — trotted out once again like the shorts and sandals we've been waiting all winter to wear again.  Continue reading...
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Like most writers, I'm an omnivorous reader. Friends ask me, "What are you reading now?" and I have a hard time answering because when I stop to think, I realize I'm reading a dozen books at once, dipping into this one, skimming through that one.  Continue reading...
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Did that headline peak your interest? Or did it pique it? I'm waiting with baited breath for your answer. Or would that be bated? All of us have a tendency to replace a fossilized word, whose nuances have been lost, with a more standard definition of that word or a different word entirely. Through this process, phrases, like words, can change meaning over time.  Continue reading...
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Beadazzled is the name of a shop in a small town in the UK. A church in a city in Australia encourages passersby to "Prevent Truth Decay – Brush up on you Bible." These signs create something linguists Rodrigue Landry and Richard Y. Bourhis defined as "the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region or urban agglomeration" and they are all useful tools in the teaching of English to non-native speakers.  Continue reading...
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Some people see me as successful. I don't think I'm the least bit talented at anything apart from organizing. (My idiot-savant ability at taking chaos and transforming it into order is useful but in the talent department it kind of sucks. It's like being spectacularly good at checkers or vacuuming the living-room.) But I have one other useful attribute. Grit.  Continue reading...
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1 2 Displaying 1-7 of 11 Articles