A craving for linguistic rationality – not to mention a fondness for wordplay – explains how acronyms begat backronyms.  Continue reading...
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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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Fictional eponyms are a new frontier for brand naming, and the territory is quickly becoming well populated. A partial list includes Amazon's Alexa, the health insurance company Oscar, the "intelligent oven" June, and the mattress brand Eve. The first-name brand isn't your boss – it's your buddy.  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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The names of some of the world's most successful brands – from Accenture to Zantac – were widely ridiculed when they were first announced. Today those names are not just accepted but admired. It turns out there's a reason and a name for the attitude shift: The more we're exposed to something unfamiliar, the more we like it. Welcome to the Zajonc effect.  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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If you're a fan of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I have some bad news for you: The English language is notoriously anti-minimalist. English loves multiples and hangs onto old words while continuously adding new ones. I could dig up many examples, but today I want to talk about just one pair, crisp and crispy, both of which mean essentially the same thing. Except when they don't.  Continue reading...
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