From a linguistic perspective, the now burgeoning field of genetic genealogy provides an interesting case study for the ways in which we develop new terminology for new concepts, picking and choosing among the raw materials we have (that is, words) to designate things for which we didn't have or need particular names before.  Continue reading...
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When judges cite dictionaries, especially as a way of underpinning or justifying a particular decision, the dictionary is suddenly elevated to a position of influence that it did not previously enjoy.  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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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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Just as enhanced is a term that attracts euphemisms like catnip attracts cats and cats attract YouTube views, alternative is no newcomer to the euphemism game.  Continue reading...
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When I open an email that a spam filter has misdirected I'm rarely in doubt about whether it is or isn't spam, and the basis of my certainty is nearly always linguistic. For me, the reasons that spam fails so colossally to convince can be divided into two convenient categories of linguistic analysis: lexical and pragmatic.  Continue reading...
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I understand why a euphemism is useful. There's a huge stigma, unfortunately, surrounding mental health, and that stigma probably prevents people from seeking the help they need. However, I wonder if this euphemism is too effective a cloaking device.  Continue reading...
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