Blog Profile / Slate: Lexicon Valley

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:613
Posts / Week:1.7
Archived Since:June 9, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Why Swearing Is Just Like Saying “Please” (Sort Of)

There's a memorable scene in Tarantino's cult classic, Pulp Fiction. It's just after John Travolta's trigger-happy character, Vincent Vega, ham-handedly shoots the kid in the car. "The Wolf" is sent to fix the mess, stalks in, and immediately starts firing staccato orders. Show More Summary

Sorry Not Sorry: The Many Names for Non-Apologies

This week’s 14-tweet "apology, of sorts" from Uber’s Travis Kalanick is the latest reminder of public figures’ unhappy habit of putting their foot in it. It’s a familiar news cycle intensified by social media, which can focus...Show More Summary

Sounding Gay, Punk, or Jock: What Language Says About Your Social Group

People tell me I sound gay. And I totally do. Eh? What does "gay" even sound like? Really, when you think about it, how could there possibly be a correlation between who we sleep with and how we talk? The way someone uses language can tell us a lot about who they are. Show More Summary

What’s the Word for Turkey in Turkish?

You've probably noticed that a certain seasonally appropriate bird and a country on the Mediterranean have strikingly similar names. Is this a coincidence or is there some deeper funny business going on? Let's start with the simple part:...Show More Summary

The Judge Who Coined “Indict a Ham Sandwich” Was Himself Indicted

In the aftermath of a grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, commentators have noted that such an outcome is quite rare. "A grand jury could 'indict a ham sandwich,' but apparently not a white police officer," wrote the U.K.'s Independent. Show More Summary

Demons and Supervillains: The Language of Darren Wilson’s Grand Jury Testimony

What did Michael Brown’s face look like when, according to police officer Darren Wilson, Brown charged him? “It looked like a demon,” Wilson told the grand jury in his testimony. This is a highly unusual way to talk about someone in an official legal context, and so it’s useful to unpack the specific words Wilson used. Show More Summary

Why Do Hawaiians Say “Mele Kalikimaka” on Christmas?

"Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say / On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day" What makes Bing Crosby's classic Christmas tune (well, the other one anyway) so endearing? At least part of the appeal is "Mele Kalikimaka" itself, which sounds tantalizingly close to "Merry Christmas" and yet not quite the same. Show More Summary

This Word Is Toast: Slang From Cult Films

Cult films are slippery customers. One person's cult film is another's mainstream hit, and both would probably be prepared to fight to the death to defend their opinion. For some, a film can only be described as "cult" if just a handful of people have seen it. Show More Summary

Let’s Break Shit: A Short History of Silicon Valley’s Favorite Phrase

The New Republic as we know it is broken, and the looming question is whether that breakage will produce anything more intellectually valuable or economically viable than a dust cloud of corporate jargon. In New York, Jonathan ChaitShow More Summary

Why Trans Caught On

In the late 1990s, I attended a conference focused on "those who identify at the male end of the gender spectrum." At the end of the conference, organizers asked each participant to fill out an exit poll, intended to capture demographic information about conference attendees. Show More Summary

Why Do Brits Say Maths and Americans Say Math?

The Imitation Game, a glossy new biopic about the British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, features a lot of maths. Characters take advanced maths classes that require them to scribble complicated maths on notebook paper, and then they set their sights on the devilish maths of the Nazi Enigma machine. Show More Summary

The Stimulating History of Coffee: Why You Hear This Word Around the World

Imagine that you’re flying Turkish Air. The beverage cart bumps down the aisle. A flight attendant holds up that little carafe and asks, kah-vay? You travel a lot. Now you’re flying Finnair. The beverage cart bumps down the aisle. Show More Summary

Dumbwatches, Pinch-to-Zoom, and Glanceability: New Words via Technology

Even the least tech-savvy lexicographer understands that technology is a robust source of new words. As technologies move from the realm of science fiction into our everyday realities, new words and meanings spring up around them. While...Show More Summary

Young Women Shouldn’t Have to Talk Like Men to Be Taken Seriously

If you're a young woman, you've probably been told there's something wrong with your voice. It seems like there are always new features of women’s speech that need to be corrected, be it uptalk, vocal fry, higher pitch, swoopy intonation...Show More Summary

The Plague of Fake Paraphrasing

Countless foreheads hit countless keyboards at 11:23 on Dec. 16, when Wolf Blitzer, reacting to Jeb Bush’s Twitter teasing of a Facebook announcement that he “will actively explore the possibility of running for President of theShow More Summary

Don’t Stay Classy

Occasionally a word wends its way into the cockles of whatever the Internet has instead of a heart. Classy, the adjectival equivalent of a graceful, pearl-draped woman in a ball gown, is one example. It joins the ranks of such preprogrammed Web responses as “SMDH,” “this,” and ¯\_(?)_/¯. This (THIS!) is a shame (SMDH). Show More Summary

Language Travel Tips: How to Talk to Someone Who Doesn’t Speak Much English

People travel a lot these days—and they're often speaking English when doing it, even if it's not their first language. If you're already fluent, you've definitely got an advantage talking to someone who's not very proficient in English, but you may still find yourself at a loss. Show More Summary

Is It Kosher to Talk About the “Pot Calling the Kettle Black”?

Welcome to Lexicon Valley’s new feature, “Is That Kosher?” A fuller linguistic arsenal leads to richer, chewier, more diverse expression—but when is the usefulness of a piece of language outweighed by the pain it causes? In “Is That Kosher?” we’ll reflect on certain words or phrases that lie in the margins of acceptability. Show More Summary

Why the F Aren’t You Reading This New Blog About Swearing?

If you aren’t reading Strong Language, a new “sweary blog about swearing” from linguists James Harbeck and Stan Carey, you really fucking should. This cheerful temple to the vulgar and profane has only been around for a few weeks,...Show More Summary

What Can Popular Presents Tell Us About Linguistics? A (Metaphorical) Gift Guide.

Mele Kalikimaka may be the Hawaiian way to shine your linguistic star this holiday season, but how can us word nerds and language-curious types share our passion in a more tangible way? Is there anything to spin our dreidels and jingle...Show More Summary

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