1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 126 Articles

Recently I spent an afternoon with friends wandering through Manhattan's Whitney Museum, gazing at a wide variety of canvases by Frank Stella, Jackson Pollack, Joseph Albers, Mark Rothko, and many more. As we wandered, my skepticism (you call this art?) gave way to admiration (wow, abandoning pictures could be fun!), and to thinking: hey, we writers could do the same thing with words, not using them to paint pictures but scattering them willy-nilly like Jackson Pollack's dribbles.  Continue reading...
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Perfectionism should have been the furthest thing from my mind after getting — and recovering from — a repetitive strain injury. But I was reluctant to resume working on my book. It wasn't so much the pain in my arm. It was more my concern that my writing wasn't any good. Could that have been perfectionism speaking?  Continue reading...
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Hey guys, I wrote a book. Fittingly, I can only state its title euphemistically in this column about euphemisms. It's sorta called Bull*#@$: A Lexicon. Not being able to name my book could be construed as an obstacle in my quest to use this column for shameless self-promotion. Or is it?  Continue reading...
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The latest episode of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley is a hoot and a half, as I take a look at the origins of hootenanny, a word that emerged from rural America with many meanings before finding fame as a name for folk-music gatherings.  Continue reading...
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Intensive purposes? Slight of hand? Linguist Adam Cooper contemplates phrases whose meanings are in transition as we replace unfamiliar words fossilized with language that sounds more reasonable to our modern ears.  Continue reading...
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During the short-lived media celebrity of the recent "blood moon," I spent some Internet time bringing myself up to speed on the phenomenon—as I suspect many others did. My interest as a lexicographer was to investigate why this celestial event is called a blood moon; thinking in the literal way that I do, and knowing the color of blood, I was perplexed at the disconnect. Blood, of course, is red—deep, vivid, saturated red—and the moon was not. It achieved a kind of Marsy orange, but it was not red.  Continue reading...
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No matter what generation you were born in, your destiny is to hear incessant blather about generations, as journalists are obsessed by the topic, particularly when it comes to making the younger generation seem like unholy mutants born to usher in the end of days. Allan Metcalf's new word book—From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations—is a timely read for era-obsessed readers with a taste for history and, of course, words.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 126 Articles