Do men and women really find different words funny? Here’s what the research says

Is the word “booty” really funnier than “ass”? And does the word “bondage” raise a laugh more than “giggle”? A new behaviour research study looks at the perceived funniness of individual English words, and finds that women and men consider different words amusing. But is this really the case? Women and men do often laugh [...]

By |2018-02-22T00:21:48+00:00August 10th, 2017|Comedy, Language, Words|0 Comments

How the once-ridiculed word “finalize” slipped into mainstream American English

“I found the class really impactful.” “I have no bandwidth for this conversation.” “Can you ping me when you’re leaving the house?” Lovers of the English language cringe when they hear corporate speak seep into everyday conversation. But the jargon-ization of language, it seems, is inevitable. In the 1960s, the gatekeepers of American English worked [...]

By |2018-02-22T00:21:49+00:00August 8th, 2017|English language, Language, Words|0 Comments

A Man Finds An Explosive Emotion Locked In A Word

In 1967, anthropologists Renato Rosaldo and his wife, Shelly, went to live with the llongot, an isolated tribe that lived in the rain forest in the Philippines. It wasn't exactly an accident that this tribe was unstudied — it was known for beheading people. But Renato and Shelly were undeterred. As they immersed themselves in [...]

By |2017-06-03T19:02:31+00:00June 5th, 2017|Anthropology, Language, Words|0 Comments

Do We Need a Word for Everything?

Imagine walking through a forest near dusk. It is peaceful and quiet; the setting sun paints streaks of light through tree trunks and across your path. The scene is familiar to anyone who’s ever taken a walk in the woods. Using one word, how would you describe the experience? You might defer to a string [...]

By |2018-02-22T00:22:06+00:00April 21st, 2017|Language, Linguistics, Words|0 Comments

Why words die

Biologists reckon that most species that have ever existed are extinct. That is true of words, too. Of the Oxford English Dictionary’s 231,000 entries, at least a fifth are obsolete. They range from “aa”, a stream or waterway (try that in Scrabble), to “zymome”, “that constituent of gluten which is insoluble in alcohol”. That is [...]

By |2017-03-09T18:51:59+00:00March 9th, 2017|Language, Words|0 Comments

How ‘Dumpster Fire’ Became 2016’s Word of the Year

Think 2016 was a 🗑🔥? The nation’s top linguists agree. The American Dialect Society just named “dumpster fire”—and the two emoji that represent it—its Word of the Year. Why? Because, it says, the phrase best represents “the public discourse and preoccupations” of 2016. The society of linguists, grammarians, and wordy scholars has awarded the prize [...]

The Evolution of ‘Like’

In our mouths or in print, in villages or in cities, in buildings or in caves, a language doesn’t sit still. It can’t. Language change has preceded apace even in places known for preserving a language in amber. You may have heard that Icelanders can still read the ancient sagas written almost a thousand years [...]

By |2016-12-06T12:08:10+00:00December 6th, 2016|English language, Language, Linguistics, Words|0 Comments

Is that a word? 4 reasons why the English language is bigger than you think

Is YOLO a word? How about Oompa Loompa, 'Merica, or freemium? In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) welcomed an additional 1,200 words (including the useful terms above) to the ever-expanding and highly confusing English language. But how do you really decide what should be considered a word? "Deciding what is a word is an [...]

The German Language of Fighting

When one thinks of swordsmanship, one typically thinks of the Japanese warrior, welding a katana, or perhaps a Celtic warrior swinging a broadsword. And empty-hand fighting is attributed to the British boxers or the French wrestlers. But in the Middle Ages, Germany surpassed itself as the European epicenter of knowledge in the martial arts. More [...]

By |2018-02-22T00:22:18+00:00November 21st, 2016|Fighting, German language, Germany, Language, Words|0 Comments

How different languages came up with words for colors

It is striking that English color words come from many sources. Some of the more exotic ones, like “vermilion” and “chartreuse,” were borrowed from French, and are named after the color of a particular item (a type of mercury and a liquor, respectively). But even our words “black” and “white” didn’t originate as color terms. [...]

By |2016-11-17T16:25:32+00:00November 17th, 2016|Colors, Languages, Words|0 Comments