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What sounds do you make when words fail? A garbled stutter? A whistle? Or is there just the resounding bump of your jaw hitting the floor? Turns out, there are words to capture the wordless shock we experience when we're confronted by mess, noise, violence, or otherwise sticky situations. They're linked by sound: repeated syllables and long vowels that are onomatopoeically evocative of the sounds that come out of our mouths when our brains are overwhelmed.  Continue reading...
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On July 25, the fourteenth Summer Special Olympics World Games will open in Los Angeles. Over the next seven days, 7,000 athletes will compete in sporting events at venues around the city, supported by 30,000 volunteers and cheered by 500,000 spectators. ESPN will broadcast the opening ceremony. It sounds festive. It sounds inspiring. But what makes it "special"?  Continue reading...
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July 11, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the first musical use of the word jazz. To celebrate, we've put together a list of vocabulary from quotes about what Jazz is as an art form and what it has meant in the lives of those quoted, as well as links to the story of jazz's origin.  Continue reading...
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White House security has been one of the most reliable sources of comedy for the past several years, with scandal and buffoonery becoming the norm. Finally, the buffoonery has produced something I can use in endless search for tasty euphemisms.  Continue reading...
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The news coming out of Greece these days can be downright perplexing, leading many in the news media to recycle the old phrase, "It's all Greek to me." I talked to NPR's Weekend All Things Considered about the origin of the expression.  Continue reading...
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I've just finished reading Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility—not for the first time, probably for the fourth or fifth time. I started reading her when I was a teenager and I try to re-read one of her novels every year. They never disappoint, and at each stage of my life, I find new facets to explore in her analysis of human nature and relations, and in her unparalleled mastery of the expressiveness of English.  Continue reading...
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For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at the clownish roots of the word bozo. While the image of TV's Bozo the Clown is familiar to many generations of American youth, how did Bozo get his name in the first place? The answer may lie in vaudeville.  Continue reading...
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4 5 6 7 8 Displaying 36-42 of 1123 Articles