2015 is the International Year of Light. The Language Lounge will observe the solemnity of the occasion in a more low-tech way, by taking up the idea of light in language. It's one of the most productive concepts for metaphor in English.  Continue reading...

Scientists have long been interested in the role that genetics plays over evolutionary time in the production of genetically distinct populations in all organisms. When the organism in question is homo sapiens, there's a new twist in the tale because people need to talk, and talk accompanies nearly everything that we do, including procreation.  Continue reading...

Have you ever sent a really EPIC tweet? There are different ways to answer that question: I'll proceed with one way that probably doesn't occur to you. The EPIC tweets under the microscope here are tweets that are of interest to Project EPIC — that is, Empowering the Public with Information in Crisis.  Continue reading...

Oversight has two rather contrasting meanings. There's oversight-1: "an unintentional omission resulting from failure to notice something"—something you generally want to avoid. And there's oversight-2: "management by overseeing the performance or operation of a person or group"—something that in a perfect world would happen all the time, and would ideally prevent a lot of oversight-1s from happening. Why use the same word to designate such contrasting things?  Continue reading...

One of the delightful features of English is what we might call a mashup. That's a good term for this type of word because it exemplifies the phenomenon: a word formed by the fusing of a verb and a particle, nearly always a particle that can operate independently as a preposition or an adverb, sometimes as both.  Continue reading...

Back in the old days (pre-Internet), when life was simpler, dictionaries were thought to carry a certain authority. People consulted them in order to learn or verify the proper and accepted meaning of words, to resolve disagreements, and sometimes to find an authoritative hook on which they could hang arguments. Today, the Internet and other technological developments make those scenarios a little less dependable and straightforward.  Continue reading...

A peculiar feature of some adjectives ending in -y is their ability to take on a semantic life of their own, separate from the meaning of their root. A handful of food-based adjectives fit this pattern, in which an English learner would be at a great disadvantage in thinking that the adjective's meaning might be composable from its parts. Think of corny, meaty, fishy, and cheesy.  Continue reading...

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