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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The periodic table of elements is an iconic image familiar to anyone with even the rudiments of education and it is perhaps one of the most successful visual representations of information ever conceived: it brings a high level of order to a field of knowledge that is too complex to organize in memory and it rewards study at every level.  Continue reading...
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As the United States celebrates Presidents' Day, it's a good time to mull over how we ended up calling the national leader "president" in the first place. Executive editor Ben Zimmer spoke to NPR's All Things Considered about the term's history.  Continue reading...
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For the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at how the seemingly random number eighty-six became a verb meaning to get rid of something, thanks to a long-forgotten code of hash houses and soda-fountain lunch counters.  Continue reading...
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Hey guys, I wrote a book. Fittingly, I can only state its title euphemistically in this column about euphemisms. It's sorta called Bull*#@$: A Lexicon. Not being able to name my book could be construed as an obstacle in my quest to use this column for shameless self-promotion. Or is it?  Continue reading...
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The latest episode of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley is a hoot and a half, as I take a look at the origins of hootenanny, a word that emerged from rural America with many meanings before finding fame as a name for folk-music gatherings.  Continue reading...
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On the latest installment of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I look into the origins of the slang term humdinger, which hit it big around the turn of the 20th century to refer to someone or something remarkable or impressive.  Continue reading...
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