A craving for linguistic rationality – not to mention a fondness for wordplay – explains how acronyms begat backronyms.  Continue reading...

Fictional eponyms are a new frontier for brand naming, and the territory is quickly becoming well populated. A partial list includes Amazon's Alexa, the health insurance company Oscar, the "intelligent oven" June, and the mattress brand Eve. The first-name brand isn't your boss – it's your buddy.  Continue reading...

In many areas of business and personal life, failure is being redefined as either a challenge that can be overcome with the right coaching or attitude – or, at the extreme, as a source of pride. What's behind this upbeat sense of what it means to fail?  Continue reading...

The names of some of the world's most successful brands – from Accenture to Zantac – were widely ridiculed when they were first announced. Today those names are not just accepted but admired. It turns out there's a reason and a name for the attitude shift: The more we're exposed to something unfamiliar, the more we like it. Welcome to the Zajonc effect.  Continue reading...

If you're a fan of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I have some bad news for you: The English language is notoriously anti-minimalist. English loves multiples and hangs onto old words while continuously adding new ones. I could dig up many examples, but today I want to talk about just one pair, crisp and crispy, both of which mean essentially the same thing. Except when they don't.  Continue reading...

By most reliable measures, 2016 has been a very good year for fiction lovers. I'm not talking here about literature; I'm talking about the opposite of fact. In mid-November, Oxford Dictionaries declared post-truth to be its word of the year. Indeed, it's been a banner year for all the words we have at our disposal to say, "Nope, it just ain't so."  Continue reading...

In a couple of months, the word authorities – the major dictionaries, the American Dialect Society, and language bloggers – will select their words of the year for 2016. I have no inside line on what those words will be; indeed, in past years, the winners have surprised me. (Singular "they," anyone?)  Continue reading...

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