5 6 7 8 9 Displaying 43-49 of 316 Articles

How often do you see an article about the search for the origin of a phrase on the homepage of the New York Times website? Just about... never. And yet the Times today has a story about the history of an expression that we've delved into a couple of times in this space: "the whole nine yards." Diligent word-sleuthing has turned up a rather unexpected predecessor: "the whole six yards."  Continue reading...
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Americans are approaching an auspicious anniversary: it has been two hundred years since the first known appearance of "Uncle Sam" as an initialistic embodiment of the United States. The earliest example of "Uncle Sam" was found in the December 23, 1812 issue of the Bennington (Vermont) News-Letter. But another town not too far from Bennington — Troy, New York — has maintained that it is the true birthplace of Uncle Sam.  Continue reading...
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It's that time again, the annual look back at the noteworthy words of the year. Were you worried about dangling over the fiscal cliff, or did you have more of a devil-may-care YOLO attitude? Were you more interested in mansplaining or hate-watching? Here's a roundup of words that's not just a bunch of malarkey.  Continue reading...
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For my latest Boston Globe column, I talked to screenwriter Tony Kushner about how he crafted the dialogue for Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." I had been intrigued about Kushner's script-writing process after hearing that he had consulted the Oxford English Dictionary to check any word that might have been inappropriate for the film's 1865 setting. While the results of this painstaking work are admirable, it's always possible to nitpick over possible anachronisms.  Continue reading...
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Retailers, not content with branding products, have lately taken to branding days of the week, as a way to hype the holiday shopping rush. "Black Friday," the name for the day after Thanskgiving, was transformed from a negative to a positive by some clever etymological mythologizing (make that etymythologizing). Then the Monday after Thanksgiving was christened "Cyber Monday," and now some marketers would like to extend that to a "Cyber Week."  Continue reading...
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Last February, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned the House of Representatives that "under current law, on January 1st, 2013, there is going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases." Now, with the election over, President Obama and the lame-duck Congress are trying to figure out a way to avoid the "fiscal cliff." But where did the phrase come from? And is the cliff metaphor really so apt?  Continue reading...
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In the leadup to President Obama's win over Mitt Romney, a number of political commentators described the presidential race as not just "tight" but "razor-tight." Ultimately, the razor-tight description was apt in such battleground states as Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, but not so much in the overall electoral results. But wait a minute: why razor-tight?  Continue reading...
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5 6 7 8 9 Displaying 43-49 of 316 Articles