2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 1120 Articles

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...
Click here to read more articles from Word Routes.

Have you encountered a transition counselor lately? I hope not. In the real world, a transition counselor is a diabolical euphemism for a profession made famous by George Clooney's character in Up in the Air: someone who fires people for a living. But in Matt Kindt's extraordinary conspiracy thriller Mind MGMT, the term has an even darker sense: assassin.  Continue reading...
Click here to read more articles from Evasive Maneuvers.

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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For the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I explored the peculiar origins of the word boondoggle, which took a strange trip from the world of Boy Scouts to the world of politics 80 years ago.  Continue reading...
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On Minnesota Public Radio, our executive editor Ben Zimmer explored the problematic history of the word refugee, now frequently heard in media accounts of the European migration crisis.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Celebrating Labor (and Labour) Day

On the first Monday in September, the United States observes Labor Day, while Canadians celebrate Labour Day. If you want to know why labour is the accepted spelling in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries like Canada, while Americans prefer labor (and color, favor, honor, humor, and neighbor), check out this classic Word Routes column by Ben Zimmer.
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For the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I delve into the many stories surrounding the origins of the word gringo, an epithet used by Latin Americans for foreign speakers, typically American Anglophones. Though a great deal of vivid folklore surrounds the word, its actual etymology is just as interesting.  Continue reading...
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2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 1120 Articles