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Judges, like the rest of us, turn to dictionaries when they're not sure about the meaning of a word. Or they turn to dictionaries when they're sure about a word's meaning, but they need some confirmation. Or they turn to a dictionary that defines a word the way they want it defined, rejecting as irrelevant, inadmissible, and immaterial any definitions they don't like.  Continue reading...

Early trailers for movies are often teasers, which do little more than tell fans that some movie is in the works. But as the release date approaches, these trailers give away key moments of the plot and spoil the experience for many viewers. In earlier years, you teased people and spoiled things. But you can now tease things and spoil people. What happened?  Continue reading...

In February, the author Gary Schmidt was interviewed by Michele Norris on NPR about his novel entitled OK for Now. Schmidt said this about the book's protagonist: "He brings all of his beat-upedness with him." "Beat-upedness"?  Continue reading...

Poking around a mall with his sons, the linguist Neal Whitman came across a sign that said, "Violators will be trespassed." It turns out that the verb trespass has picked up a new meaning in the last twenty years or so, one which hasn't yet made it into any of the dictionaries.  Continue reading...

Yesterday was National Grammar Day, and I've been thinking about one of the long-standing usage peeves. It doesn't usually make people's top 10 lists, but it's been out there since the 19th century: try and instead of try to. The usual complaint about this idiom is that it doesn't mean what people who say it seem to think it means.  Continue reading...

Kudomania!

We're in the middle of awards show season: January saw the People's Choice Awards, the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, the Golden Globes, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the action continues this month with the Grammy Awards next week, culminating with the Academy Awards. January and February are an extended kudofest for the show business and recording industries. Yes, "kudofest."  Continue reading...

Some people have "pet peeves," while others have "pet hates." What's the difference? Are "pet peeves" particularly American? And what about "pet aversions"? Linguist Neal Whitman investigates the vocabulary of annoyance.  Continue reading...

1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 124 Articles