Monthly Archives: February 2013

An Interview with Virginia Morell

Acclaimed science writer Virginia Morell’s latest book Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures is being released this month by Crown Publishing. It’s about the inner worlds of animals, from ants and parrots to elephants and monkeys. … Continue reading

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Words of the World: A Global History of the Oxford English Dictionary

Sarah Ogilvie’s Words of the World: A Global History of the Oxford English Dictionary begins by describing her entry into the quiet world of the OED. She had come from of Australian branch of Oxford dictionaries, was a rare linguist … Continue reading

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The Story of Ain’t

David Skinner’s The Story of Ain’t ain’t just about ain’t. It’s the tale of the making of Webster’s Third International Dictionary, the wonderfully controversial flashpoint in the cultural wars between realists and snoots. I wondered what Skinner would add to … Continue reading

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MY YEAR OF NEW WORDS, PART 5: SUFFIXES

Making up words requires suffixes—word endings. In English, there are two major types of suffixes. Some endings INFLECT nouns, verbs and adjectives, and adverbs to show their grammatical forms: plural, possessive, past tense, comparative, superlative. And some endings DERIVE new … Continue reading

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MY YEAR OF NEW WORDS, PART 4: PREFIXES

March was about prefixes. The un- of uncool, unknowable, unpredicatable, unintelligible, uninhabited, and so forth. Attached to adjectives, un- means not. It also means not when attached to nouns, like undead, uncola, and the great unwashed. But attached to verbs, … Continue reading

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MY YEAR OF NEW WORDS, PART 3: CLIPPING

If you Febrify something, you reduce it by 1/15th or 2/30th. So for February it makes sense to introduce the technique of clipping. You shorten a word, from the front (auto from automobile, gas from gasoline, dorm from dormitory, exam … Continue reading

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MY YEAR OF NEW WORDS, PART 2: Blending

Blends are words formed by taking two (or more) words and pushing them together, dropping some sounds and letters. So “smoke + fog” become “smog, breakfast + lunch” becomes“brunch”, “spoon + fork” becomes “spork”. You see what’s going on. Lots … Continue reading

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MY YEAR OF NEW WORDS, part 1

\We love words. Some are short and sharp, like “cut” or “kick.” Some of are confusing, like “citation” (is it good or bad?) and “ogle” (is it AHgle or OHgle or UHgle). Some roll smiling off our tongues, like “Kalamazoo” … Continue reading

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