Blog Profile / Slate: Lexicon Valley

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:690
Posts / Week:1.8
Archived Since:June 9, 2008

Blog Post Archive

An Oxford English Dictionary for the Millennial Set, Fo’ Shizzle

Note: All dates in parentheses are for the earliest OED citation. Bold type indicates entries that are new or newly defined in the dictionary as of June 2015. The much vaunted, ever-expanding Oxford English Dictionary announced its latest...Show More Summary

Grammar Sticklers and Illegal Parkers, Rejoice!

An Ohio woman and hero to all has successfully wiggled her way out of a summons on the peculiar grounds of absentee punctuation. While many a linguist (including John McWhorter in Slate) would argue that commas don’t matter much, toShow More Summary

Why Do Secular Scientists Keep Talking About Animal Sacrifice?  

If I were to guess the modern profession that earnestly uses the religious word sacrifice, I never would've said scientific research. According to a 2009 Pew survey, 41 percent of American scientists identify as atheists—10 times the proportion of atheists in the general public. Show More Summary

The Incredible Shrinking “Zeitgeist”: How Did This Great Word Lose Its Meaning?

Not long ago, the New York Times crowned Tyler Brûlé, a sleekly sophisticated design mogul, “Mr. Zeitgeist.” But the throne was occupied: A different NYT piece had already declared Marie Antoinette queen of the ever-shifting zeitgeist. Show More Summary

Documenting the Diversity of American English

“Gas is really expensive anymore.” “He’s in school in Boston—so don’t I.” “I need me a salad.” To a high-school English teacher or self-styled grammarian, the above sentences are likely cringeworthy. To most native speakers of English, in fact, they would sound either inelegant or incorrect. Show More Summary

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means to Scalia

Words may have lost all meaning to the Supreme Court, as Antonin Scalia suggested yesterday in his dissent from the King v. Burwell decision to uphold health care subsidies, but there’s one word that has a meaning quite particular to...Show More Summary

Check Out the Trailer for Do I Sound Gay?

What does it mean to “sound gay?” Is there a gay voice? A gay lilt? A gay inflection? We posed these questions on an episode of the Lexicon Valley podcast last fall, and now a new documentary from filmmaker David Thorpe, called Do I Sound Gay?, takes on the subject more intimately. Show More Summary

Is Language Now Meaningless? A Ruling in the Matter of Scalia v. SCOTUScare.

IN THE MATTER OF SCALIA V. SCOTUSCARE Argued June 25, 2015 – Decided June 25, 2015 Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia alleges in his dissent to the ruling on King v. Burwell that “words no longer have meaning.” Scalia claims that language...Show More Summary

Can You Guess the Poem From a Single Line? Take Our Quiz.

O Slate quiz takers! We’ve challenged you to guess the pop song from its first second and the painting from one eye. Now we want to know whether you can deduce the poem from a single line. Sound easy? Not so fast. It turns out that a lot of versifiers like to write about the same things, including love, birds, and art itself. Show More Summary

It's Time to Speak Up About the Overuse of "Speaking Out"

North Carolina florist Deborah Dills was driving to work when she spotted Dylann Roof, the suspected gunman, seemingly fleeing his Charleston, South Carolina, murder scene. She called the cops, then tailed Roof’s car for 35 miles until police caught up with him. Show More Summary

There Should Be a Word for That! (So Make One Up.)

Language is wonderfully expansive and fluid—constantly mutating and forever evolving to better represent our lives and culture—and yet frequently inadequate. There are countless concepts, feelings, and situations, not to mention emerging technologies and gadgets, that don’t have a particular word to describe them. Show More Summary

Gay Marriage? Same-Sex Marriage? How Should We Talk About Marriage Equality?

As the Supreme Court prepares to hand down a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, how should we refer to the matrimonial institution they are poised to accept or deny? The front-runner terms are gay marriage and same-sex marriage, often used interchangeably. Show More Summary

My Students Never Use the First Person Voice. I Wish They Would.

At least once a week on the Dartmouth College campus, I see a student, eyes glued to a smartphone, literally walk into a tree or a pole or a peer. I don’t mean to laugh (and usually I suppress the urge), but c’mon, it’s a little bit funny. Show More Summary

Let’s Talk (or Sign!) About the Deaf, Not Hearing Interpreters

Note: As is consistent with the written and culturally accepted standard, “Deaf” is used to refer to a community, while “deaf” is used to refer to a physiological state of being. A few days ago, a good friend and fellow linguaphile posted...Show More Summary

Why We Be Loving the "Habitual Be"

Who be eating cookies? That’s the question that the University of Maryland at Baltimore’s Janice Jackson asked children in a now-famous study on “the habitual be.” Have you heard of this creature? Though it sounds like the yellowjacket perpetually hard at work on your hydrangea, it is not. Show More Summary

Clusterboinks and Clusterfornications

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. I love the word clusterfuck. It’s a perfect word for, as Jesse Sheidlower defines it in The F-Word, “a bungled or confused undertaking or situation.” That sums up approximately 91.3 percent of life. Much as I dig the original, I’m also a fan of variations. Show More Summary

Sacré Bleu! Why Is Blue the Most Profane Color?

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Blue humour, blue movies, blue talk—what’s so obscene about the colour blue? Nobody really knows, as it turns out. The origin of blue in the sense of lewd,...Show More Summary

The Kick-Butt World of Cutthroat Compounds

The following post was excerpted from Sentence First: An Irishman's blog about the English language. A houseboat is a type of boat; a boathouse is a type of house. This illustrates a common pattern in English morphology: the rightmost part of a compound (houseboat) is usually the ‘head’. Show More Summary

Mother Love: The Many Euphemisms For Our Most Obscene Polysyllable

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. By their euphemisms shall ye know them. I am hardened – how not? – but I gather that motherfucker, that ‘Oedipal polysyllable’, remains the most (least?) popular of all the so-called ‘obscenities’. Show More Summary

Will Words Soon Be Replaced by GIFs? A Debate in Words and GIFs.

Recently Adam Leibsohn, the COO of the GIF platform Giphy, made his case that GIFs are superior to words as a medium of communication. Could this possibly be true? Slate asked words correspondent Katy Waldman and Internet correspondent Amanda Hess to debate. Show More Summary

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