Blog Profile / Slate: Lexicon Valley

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:776
Posts / Week:1.8
Archived Since:June 9, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Taming of the Shrew: Maybe Not So Tame After All?

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. “ … She did call me rascal, fiddler, / And twangling jack, with twenty such vile terms,” a beaten-up Hortensio cries after a rough music lesson with the titular “shrew,” Katherine, in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (2.1.155-6). Show More Summary

Ooh! Arrgh! How We Hear Emotion in Nonverbal Noises

On May 10, 1915, renowned poet-cum-cranky-recluse Robert Frost gave a lecture to a group of schoolboys in Cambridge, MA. “Sounds in the mouths of men,” he told his audience, “I have found to be the basis of all effective expression.”...Show More Summary

Claiming the Yid

I grew up in Moscow, speaking a surprising amount of Yiddish for a secular kid born in 1959. I could haggle with my grandmother about whether the weather required that a hat be worn, and I knew the meaning of the colorful insults myShow More Summary

Palin’s Rhetoric Is an Enchanted, Perplexing Fever Dream and We Love It

Like a radiant molten meteor that narrowly missed us in 2008 but fell into Earth’s orbit and is, perhaps, scheduled to skim the outer layers of our atmosphere every four years, Sarah Palin has returned. By now you have read or listened to her delirious, rambling, balls-to-the-wall endorsement of Donald J. Show More Summary

Principled Protestors or Y'all Qaeda: A Guide to Naming the Oregon Ranchers

A group of men are still camped out in an Oregon wildlife refuge, eating snacks, waving guns, sweeping sex toys off tables, and trying to spark the overthrow of the federal government. One of the band’s leaders has announced that they will meet with the community soon to unveil their exit strategy. Show More Summary

That’s Just What They Would Say

This post originally appeared on Sean Carroll's blog, Preposterous Universe. The announcement we wait for every year has finally come in, and the American Dialect Society has chosen their Word of the Year! That word is: they. It beat...Show More Summary

New Questions Swirl About Security Failure at Tech Giant Juniper Networks 

When tech giant Juniper Networks made the startling announcement last month that it had uncovered two mysterious backdoors embedded in software running on some of its firewalls, certain people in the security community praised the company for being honest about its discovery. Show More Summary

The 1967 Revolution That Allowed Swedes to Finally Call Each Other “You”

Excerpted from Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages by Gaston Dorren. Out now from Atlantic Monthly Press. The year 1967 was the height of the hippie era. The Beatles, with “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” are singing the praises of LSD. Show More Summary

Want to Call BS? Use This Fun Derivative of the F-Word Instead.

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. I wrote a book about words for bullshit this year, but I missed some words. I think my most egregious omission was fuckery. That’s a damn popular word for...Show More Summary

Anadiplosis Uses Repetition. Repetition Confers Emphasis. Emphasis Creates Great Power.

Remarked many have on the oroborotic properties of Yoda’s language, the way it forces listeners to circle back on his meaning like an R3 droid in reverse. But the Master also favors another rhetorical device: anadiplosis, or the “repetition...Show More Summary

Researchers Have Figured Out Why the Word Snunkoople Is Funny

Caltsio. Filisma. Snunkoople. Though they’re all made-up words, you probably found one funnier than the others. But why? A group of linguists from Canada and Germany explore that question in a new study with a dense title that belies its enswarm-ment with such undignified coinages as himumma, suppopp, and pachang. Show More Summary

A Brief History of Fiddling and Diddling

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. When you’ve already started saying fuck but realize you’re within earshot of delicate sensibilities, fiddle (or fiddlesticks!) is a convenient last-minute mincing. Show More Summary

English Needs a Word for the Relationship Between Your Parents and Your In-Laws

My parents and my wife’s parents have a good relationship. It’s nice. It’s rare. And they use a word to describe each other: machatunim. We hear it a lot. My wife’s dad, at home: “I spoke to the machatunim today.” My wife’s mom, in an email to my dad: “I’m so glad we’re machatunim.” My wife and I roll our eyes at this. Show More Summary

Congrats, America! “Active Shooter” Used to Describe a Sportsman. Now It Means a Mass Killer.

Before the details of their identities were made clear, when Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire on a social services center in San Bernardino, the county’s Sheriff Department tweeted a warning to residents: An “active shooter” means something very specific in law enforcement. Show More Summary

“Teachers! Please Do Not Make Your Students Use Synonyms for Said,” I Blurted

My fourth-grade English teacher employed a list of words he called “D.N.U.’s,” for “do not use.” It was about a dozen words long and included get, nice, very, and thing. If he saw one in our papers he would flag it and make a tutting sound, although he didn’t always notice. Show More Summary

Why We Be Loving the “Habitual Be”

Who be eating cookies? That’s the question that the University of Massachusetts Amherst’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 yellow jacket perpetually hard at work on your hydrangea, it is not. Show More Summary

Merry Thoughts, Naughty Bits: Putting the “Bone” in Wishbones

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. At the Strong Language table this U.S. Thanksgiving, we’ll be having none of that euphemistic white or dark meat first served up in the polite speech of 19th-century American English. Show More Summary

It’s Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman! The Art and Science of Mixture Descriptions

Capturing the essence of a movie is tricky work, especially when you’ve only got a few minutes to pitch your idea in front of a high-powered executive. It’s Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman! Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate! These...Show More Summary

What the Eff Is Up With the “A” in “Effing A”?

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Swearing loves the alphabet—or euphemisms for swearing do, at least. To avoid saying fuck outright, we might just drop an F-bomb, sidestep with the F-word, or register “initial” reactions with WTF. Show More Summary

This Year’s Word of the Year Isn’t Even a Word ??????

The Oxford Dictionaries “Word” of the Year 2015 has landed. It’s ?, aka face with tears of joy, already weeping with relief at its victory. (I suppose we asked for this.) Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, explains the...Show More Summary

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