Displaying 1-7 of 7 Articles

It's been a while since I've written a column for this space, and in large part the hiatus has been due to my (successful) campaign for a seat on my local school board. Or board of education. Which is it? Is there a difference?  Continue reading...
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As is the annual tradition, it is time once again to look back at the new and notable words of the past year. In 2015, could the most significant word have been a lowly pronoun?  Continue reading...
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Coined names, dictionary-word names, an acronym, a surname: the year now ending was full of variety for anyone interested in branding trends. Here, in alphabetical order, are my top ten brand names for 2015.  Continue reading...
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For the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at how the seemingly random number eighty-six became a verb meaning to get rid of something, thanks to a long-forgotten code of hash houses and soda-fountain lunch counters.  Continue reading...
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It's almost the end of 2015, and a new frontrunner for Euphemism of the Year has emerged. In a Department of Justice press release, Attorney General Loretta Lynch wrote, "The Department of Justice is committed to giving justice-involved youth the tools they need to become productive members of society."

As Shakespeare put it, "Wow."  Continue reading...
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In 1948, the American journalist and language chronicler H.L. Mencken wrote an essay for The New Yorker, "Video Verbiage," in which he analyzed the lingo of the fledgling medium of television. Several of the words he gathered are now obsolete: vaudeo ("televised vaudeville"), televiewers (now just "viewers"), blizzard head (an actress so blonde that the lighting has to be toned down). Others are with us still, including telegenic and telecast. Nearly 70 years after Mencken published his essay, television itself is undergoing a massive redefinition, and so is our TV lexicon.  Continue reading...
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I heard an interview on the radio the other day with Dan Price, CEO of Seattle-based credit card processing firm Gravity Payments. He's been in the news because of his decision to set the minimum salary for his employees at $70,000. What interested me in the interview was his use of pencil out, a phrasal verb that was new to me. Lexicographers are to words like birders are to birds: when we spot one that's not on our life list we get very excited, even as others' eyes may glaze over.  Continue reading...
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Displaying 1-7 of 7 Articles