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language


  • The Birth, and Life, of a Word

    by Ralph Keyes

    One of the most widely-used terms in discussions of American racism has its roots in a campaign by two pro-slavery writers to troll abolitionists through a fake tract promoting "miscegenation."



  • The English history of African American English

    by Shana Poplack

    Many of the features stereotypically associated with contemporary African American Vernacular English have a robust precedent in the history of the English language.



  • Absolute English

    by Michael D Gordin

    Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?



  • Dusting off the language of the Cold War

    ?“The cold war dinosaurs who still tramp the corridors and editorial columns of London and Washington seem almost to pine for the virile certainties of 1945-1989,” the columnist Simon Jenkins writes.



  • Allan Metcalf: On the Origin of ‘Shyster’

    Allan Metcalf is a professor at MacMurray College in Illinois, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, and author of OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word.Out in the wilds of western Missouri, in Rolla, which is not far from the tornado-devastated town of Joplin, lives a scholar who has made etymology his life’s work. He is Gerald Leonard Cohen, professor in the department of arts, languages, and philosophy at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and grand impresario of American etymologists—as well as the world’s leading corraler of language historians, who often join him in tackling some of the most challenging puzzles of word origins.



  • How the Union’s state got so ‘strong’

    ...Strong, stronger, strongest — one of those words has been used to describe the union in each of the last 17 State of the Union addresses.But it was not always so. Presidents once used other words to describe the state of our union. President Jimmy Carter liked to call it “sound.” President Harry S. Truman liked to call it “good.” President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a lyrical moment, described the state of the union in 1965 as “free and restless, growing and full of hope.”And when things were not going well, they said so.“I must say to you that the state of the union is not good,” President Gerald R. Ford said in 1975, citing high unemployment, slow growth and soaring deficits. He added, “I’ve got bad news, and I don’t expect much, if any, applause.”...What changed? The simple answer is President Ronald Reagan....



  • Long after a man’s brain helps make a scientific breakthrough, he is identified

    The identity of a mysterious patient who helped scientists pinpoint the brain region responsible for language has been discovered, researchers report.The finding, detailed in the January issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, identifies the patient as Louis Leborgne, a French craftsman who battled epilepsy his entire life.In 1840, a wordless patient was admitted to the Bicetre Hospital outside Paris for aphasia, or an inability to speak. He was essentially just kept there, slowly deteriorating. It wasn’t until 1861 that the man, who was known only as “Monsieur Leborgne” and who was nicknamed “Tan” for the only word he could say, came to physician Paul Broca’s ward at the hospital....