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One purpose of slang is to keep illegal doings off the radar of any noisy bystanders, especially cops. So even though slang and euphemisms tend to be on opposite ends of the honesty scale, they can both be used as cloaking devices.  Continue reading...
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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...
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Do you have a transfusion specialist? Transfusion specialist is a euphemism for blood boy: a young, healthy fella who the wealthy pay for their invigorating blood. This term comes from the land of fiction, but treating youthful blood as a fountain of youth is all-too-real. Whether you're young enough to sell your blood for a pretty penny or old enough to prey on the young like Nosferatu, I hope you can appreciate a heaping helping of hokum.  Continue reading...
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Eight pairs of sounds that are scattered across the lexicon of English support Henry Fowler's observation that relations among words in English come to us from our forefathers as an odd jumble and plainly show that the language has not been neatly constructed by a master builder who could create each part to do the exact work required of it, neither overlapped or overlapping; far from that, its parts have had to grow as they could.  Continue reading...
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By now, you've likely heard about an awful incident in which a man was viciously dragged off an overbooked United flight. You've likely also heard about the euphemism United CEO Oscar Munoz used in the immediate aftermath: "I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers." Deep down, we're all clueless airline executives. When we're ashamed or just want to dodge blame, we use or concoct terms that create a bubble of balderdash around the truth. Here are some of the latest and lamest.  Continue reading...
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I have long been a bit disposed (and definitely not predisposed) to peeve about pre- words that don't really require pre-. Lately I have added a new peeve, actually a lexicographer's lament, about words that begin with the complementary prefix post-. These two prefixes share the quality of suggesting a timeline, and the problematic nature of both of them arises when the reader or listener isn't quite clear on where to land on that timeline, or what is happening there.  Continue reading...
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The 200th anniversary of astronomer Charles Messier's death is a great opportunity to gaze into the night sky and examine the curious patterns in the way we name faraway objects that were known to us for most of human history only by their luminous appearances.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 873 Articles