A look at the achievements of linguist William Labov, who is a pioneer in the study of the sociocultural aspects of language.
English reportedly has by far the largest vocabulary in history. That’s double the number of its nearest rival, German. But does that satisfy Anglophones? Nope – we just invent more.
In 2007, the editors of the Oxford Junior English Dictionary banished a bevy of terms describing the natural world.
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.
Jugaad is a Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi word for 'thinking outside the box' to find innovative, low-cost solutions to problems.
English tends to gobble up useful foreign words. Some wonderful words are not even knocking on the door of English, however.
We now have a rough consensus that an apostrophe signals the possessive and a plain s the plural, although there is still debate about a few points.
Over the centuries, a surprising number of theologians and linguists have tried to 'reverse Babel' and create universally intelligible languages.
A Mandarin duck swims in Central Park in New York on Dec. 5. In the weeks since it appeared in Central Park, the duck has become a celebrity.
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.
Differences between British English and American English can often be worked out from context and are unlikely to offend. Some, however, have the potential to embarrass.
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.
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.