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In 1948, the American journalist and language chronicler H.L. Mencken wrote an essay for The New Yorker, "Video Verbiage," in which he analyzed the lingo of the fledgling medium of television. Several of the words he gathered are now obsolete: vaudeo ("televised vaudeville"), televiewers (now just "viewers"), blizzard head (an actress so blonde that the lighting has to be toned down). Others are with us still, including telegenic and telecast. Nearly 70 years after Mencken published his essay, television itself is undergoing a massive redefinition, and so is our TV lexicon.  Continue reading...
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I heard an interview on the radio the other day with Dan Price, CEO of Seattle-based credit card processing firm Gravity Payments. He's been in the news because of his decision to set the minimum salary for his employees at $70,000. What interested me in the interview was his use of pencil out, a phrasal verb that was new to me. Lexicographers are to words like birders are to birds: when we spot one that's not on our life list we get very excited, even as others' eyes may glaze over.  Continue reading...
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Intensive purposes? Slight of hand? Linguist Adam Cooper contemplates phrases whose meanings are in transition as we replace unfamiliar words fossilized with language that sounds more reasonable to our modern ears.  Continue reading...
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During the short-lived media celebrity of the recent "blood moon," I spent some Internet time bringing myself up to speed on the phenomenon—as I suspect many others did. My interest as a lexicographer was to investigate why this celestial event is called a blood moon; thinking in the literal way that I do, and knowing the color of blood, I was perplexed at the disconnect. Blood, of course, is red—deep, vivid, saturated red—and the moon was not. It achieved a kind of Marsy orange, but it was not red.  Continue reading...
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Do you like sowing your wild oaks? Do you sometimes feel like a social leopard? Could you use a new leaf on life? Or do you just enjoy the infinite creativity of the English language, even when people make mistakes? If you answered yes to any of the above, you need to check out Robert Alden Rubin's terrific new book Going to Hell in a Hen Basket: An Illustrated Dictionary of Modern Malapropisms.  Continue reading...
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I live in the heart of a small lexical explosion—Boulder, Colorado, home to about 100,000 people (of whom 30,000 are university students), and about two dozen retail marijuana dispensaries. The lexical explosion is in the marketing vocabulary of a product that until recently, despite its being universally known and widely used, was contraband.  Continue reading...
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In his latest batch of under-the-radar euphemisms, Mark Peters introduces such linguistic doozies as "ethical cheating," an oxymoronic term that came to light after the Ashley Madison hacking hubbub.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 835 Articles