Barbara Wallraff

  • Meh!

    Someone asked me a few weeks ago when to expect to see "meh" in dictionaries. Soon, according to AP. Oddly, the UK imprint Collins is the first…

  • Off-topic: pets

    This just in, by way of The Daily Beast, my source for animal news. No offense to Peru, but I hope the Obamas pick a poodle instead.

  • Hypermiling and other Words of the Year

    The New Oxford American Dictionary is getting the jump on the Words of the Year season. Yesterday it announced its winner, "hypermiling" (meaning…

  • Now that the election cliches are receding ...

    ... some new old words and phrases are lurching into view. Baltimore Sun copy chief John McIntyre is doing his best to keep us safe from them. 

  • It's historic!

    On the one hand, it may seem petty to focus on the niceties of language at this great moment in America's history. On the other hand, one reason…

  • The F-word goes to the Supreme Court

    At least one thing besides the election is scheduled to happen tomorrow: The Supreme Court will hear FCC vs. Fox Television Stations, as yesterday's…

  • AMF, Part IV

    Here's the latest ... might we call it a guerdon? (more nearly that than a meed, wouldn't you agree?) resulting from a treasure hunt through the…

  • In a Word

    Eloquence contretemps; ages of fable

  • ShamWow

    At 14:57 - 15:10 you'll find the first known use (the first known to me, at any rate) of "ShamWow" in an extended sense:   Lexicographers, please…

  • AMF, Part III

    "AMF" being "Antique Mental Furnishings," and this entry being more from guest blogger Ammon Shea. I've been challenging him with Word Fugitives that…

  • Myriad ways to say it

    I'm feeling a wee bit trivial as everybody else argues about the election or the economy and I slog along minding our language. All I can say in my…

  • Antique mental furnishings, Part II

    See Part I for an explanation of what we're doing here.  Felicity Carter, of Neustadt/Wein, Germany, writes: "We've got the word schadenfreude for…

  • Antique mental furnishings, Part I

    When I visited Oxford, a couple of weeks ago, I made the acquaintance of Ammon Shea, the author of Reading the OED. For his book, Ammon (whose name…

  • People with "up"

    "Up" is an industrious little word, always looking for new ways to make itself useful. From the cover piece in today's New York Times…

  • Mixed Cardboard Only

    The linguist Geoffrey Pullum is really onto something here, explaining the mindset that results in off-kilter notices and signs like "Mixed…

  • "Why can't us?" Oh, please.

    I woke up to a paean to "Why can't us?" on my local NPR station this morning, courtesy of Bill Littlefield. Online backgrounder is here. If a…

  • Walking the walk = talking the talk

    Lots of good suggestions are turning up for the fugitive word Joanna Carr has requested, about the way people behave on crowded streets. (Keep 'em…

  • November Word Fugitive

    Joanna Carr's "busy cities" are certainly where this problem is most noticeable, but I've experienced versions of it even on hiking trails in the…

  • Your questions answered

    In a previous entry, I asked if there was anything you'd like me to ask the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary while I was among them. Here…

  • Dictionary dreams?

    I've moved on from Oxford physically, and so I shall virtually -- but first: A highlight of the visit was a panel discussion in the Bodleian…


Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.


How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.


A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple


What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?


The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.



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