Blog Profile / Slate: Lexicon Valley

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:631
Posts / Week:1.7
Archived Since:June 9, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Which English You Speak Has Nothing to Do With How Smart You Are

How can linguists and educators work together to help maintain the linguistic voices of the next Zora Neale Hurston or Albert Einstein while at the same time support students on the Common Core, SATs, GREs, and LSATs? In classrooms across the U.S., there are kids who speak a wide variety of types of English. Show More Summary

A Course on Understanding People in Ipswich: Is the Course in Ipswich, or the People?

ARTHUR: Actually, I think he might. MARTIN: No, Arthur, he won’t. ARTHUR: Hmm. The thing is, though, Skip, with all due respect, but what I’ve got that you haven’t is that Mum sent me on a course on understanding people in Ipswich. MARTIN (slowly): And if I ever want the people of Ipswich understood, you’ll be the first person I call. Show More Summary

“Y” So Creative? A Very Adjective-y Letter

This all went down in the past month: Facebook comment: "As I know from my rednecky upstate second hometown.... " Email from a friend: "This morning I was thinking that my hairdresser is getting so Jesus-y with me." Headline from the...Show More Summary

Back-to-the-Future Tense: How Does Time Travel Affect Grammar?

A recent episode of The Big Bang Theory shows Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard watching Back to the Future, Part II and discussing the appropriate tense to use when talking about something that happened in an alternate past timeline. Show More Summary

Single Quotes or Double Quotes? It’s Really Quite Simple.

If you are an American, using quotation marks could hardly be simpler: Use double quotation marks at all times unless quoting something within a quotation, when you use single. It's different in the greater Anglosphere, where they generally use singles in books and doubles in newspapers. Show More Summary

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

There are two famous riddles about chickens. One investigates the reasoning behind the chicken’s desire to cross the road (“to get to the other side”) while the other poses the ontological quandary: “Which came first, the chicken...Show More Summary

4 Features From Other Languages That We Wish English Had

If you were redesigning English, and you could make it do anything that any other language in the world does, what would you change? In the video below, YouTuber Tom Scott talks about four fantastic features in other languages that he...Show More Summary

What Exactly Is “Cerise”? The Complicated History of Color Definitions.

When you spend all your time in a book, you think you know it. All the editors at Merriam-Webster know Webster's Third Edition, but now that we're undertaking a revision of the beast, we're ears-deep in it, drowning in stuffy single-statement definitions. Show More Summary

What Do You Call the Night Before Halloween?

If you're like the majority of Americans, you don't have a special term for the night before Halloween, and it may not even have occurred to you that anyone does. But for a substantial minority of people, about 25 percent of respondents to the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes, the night before Halloween most certainly does have a name. Show More Summary

What Ghostbusters Tells Us About the Hidden Rules of Conversation

The video below shows a scene from the Halloween classic movie Ghostbusters, which helps set up the rivalry between childish parapsychologist Dr. Venkman and uptight bureaucrat Walter Peck. But it's also a great example of one of the hidden rules of conversation—and how utterly obnoxious it is when someone breaks them. Dr. Show More Summary

Alcohol Really Does Make You Better at a Foreign Language (Sometimes)

Drunk-dialing exes, picking fights with bouncers—alcohol's tongue-loosening properties are all too familiar. But it turns out that alcohol's ability to lower your inhibitions is also good for speaking a foreign language. If you'veShow More Summary

How Going Electronic Changed Dictionaries

It may come as no surprise to you that many of us at Merriam-Webster are book enthusiasts. After all, we deal in books: We read them, we mark them, we make them. For my own part, books take up more space in my house than my children do. Show More Summary

Accidental CAPS LOCK and Its Discontents

THE MOST MORTIFYING— Sorry. The most mortifying typographical error of our modern digital moment, the bedevilingest faux pas, is of course inadvertent CAPS. (Followed by autocorrect, which keeps insisting that I mean “bedevil ingestShow More Summary

“From Her Marriage to Her Dog”? What Went Wrong in Patchett’s Review.

A recent letter to the editor from Ann Patchett is making the rounds on social media: I was grateful to see my book "This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage" mentioned in Paperback Row (Oct. 19). When highlighting a few of the essays in...Show More Summary

Can John Leguizamo Put a Pretty Face on Fugly?

"F-U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi! You fugly! Fugly! Fugly as in ugly!" That's the chorus that greets young Jesse Sanchez in the new movie Fugly! when he tries to impress a bunch of girls by dropping his pants. "The nickname stuck," the adult Jesse says in a voiceover. Show More Summary

Five Poems With Fantastic Wordplay

All poetry involves a certain facility with words—and often rhymes and meter—but a few poems kick it up a notch and really make us rethink what you can even do with language. Here are five of my favorites that'll bend your mind. 1. Show More Summary

How Will Legalization Affect the Language Around Marijuana?

With Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia passing measures on Nov. 4 to legalize recreational marijuana, joining Colorado and Washington as U.S. regions where the sale of the drug is (or will be) legal, I thought it might be worth taking a look at the language surrounding the contested cannabis plant. Show More Summary

How a Crossword Puzzle Gets Made

The first question asked of many crossword makers: “Do you write the clues first?” To help explain why that wouldn't make sense, Slate’s Mike Vuolo, an occasional crossword writer for the New York Times and others, walks us through the process of creating a new puzzle in the video above. Show More Summary

What Do the Glyphs at Chipotle Mean? They’re Mayan—Sort of.

Like most people, I enjoy burritos. Unlike most people, I also enjoy learning about ancient hieroglyphic writing systems, because I’m Indiana—er—Language Jones. A while back, I bought Andrea Stone & Marc Zender’s Reading Maya...Show More Summary

Selfie, One Year Later, Still Going Strong

There can be few people who don't know that a selfie is a photograph that you take of yourself, typically with your smartphone. The editors at Oxford Dictionaries started tracking the word back in April 2012, at which time it was noted...Show More Summary

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