Over the centuries, a surprising number of theologians and linguists have tried to 'reverse Babel' and create universally intelligible languages.
Like most students in the past 100 years, I was taught to employ exclamation points 'rarely.' Now, though, we are in a period of exclamation inflation, and I have succumbed.
Deadline offers a rare case in which the popular etymology of a word turns out to be accurate. Originally it was a line that promised death if you went over it.
A 1395 translation of the Bible demonstrates that the word 'sad' didn’t mean what it does now.
What do the words politicaster, mongrel, and braggart have in common? They end with a pejorative suffix, a few final letters that change a neutral or positive word into a negative one.
The term’s etymology is vexed. It was first used in the Northeastern United States in the 18th century, but that is all we can say with relative certainty.
When tested, most people can name only about 50 percent of even familiar aromas such as coffee, cinnamon, and garlic. But we do know when something stinks. For bad smells, we have a fairly rich, if nonspecific, vocabulary.
It is surprisingly hard for English-speakers to describe the odors that occasion strong emotions. English possesses almost no abstract smell words that pick out links or themes among unrelated aromas.
A reader recently asked why a building is called a building. The answer has to do with the great variety of functions that '-ing' performs in modern English.
Spectactors attend the opening of the Lumiere 2018 Grand Lyon Film Festival, in Lyon, France, Oct. 13.
In English, the right to vote itself is sometimes referred to as suffrage. There is a folk etymology on the internet that holds suffrage to be derived from to suffer, in the older sense of 'allow' or 'permit.'
There are so many wonderful campaign words, I feel as if I could go on forever – just like campaign season.
As the term 'prestige construction' hints, hypercorrection is intimately bound up with issues of social class.
A word that starts out as a neutral or even positive term for men feminizes (becomes exclusively identified with women) and often pejorates (gets worse).
It is hard even to imagine hoyden as a meaningful term of reproach and criticism today. Why shouldn’t girls climb trees? What’s wrong with women laughing loudly and saying what they think?
Why, as John Pollack writes in “The Pun Also Rises,” do we consider puns “the lowest form of humor?”
A group of psychologists recently published a paper claiming that nominative determinism actually works. They found that men named Dennis were more likely to be dentists, the theory being that 'people choose – or are unconsciously drawn to – careers that resemble their own names.'
The US Senate is – or was – strongly associated with ideals of comity. Many of the recent articles about former FBI Director James Comey, however, suggest that Senate comity is under threat or already destroyed.
Even if you decide to make a firm distinction between bi- and semi-, these words are used so interchangeably that it’s still confusing.
It was only at the turn of the 20th century that a high enough proportion of Westerners had so much food that thinness resulting from self-denial became the standard of beauty.