How and did we start using "no" to mean "yes" — as "No, totally" or "No, exactly"? Kathryn Schultz at The New Yorker takes a deep dive into the linguistics of "Yes" and "No" and how English kept them and ditched their more precise brethren. [The New Yorker]
Lately, it seems that there are few words in the English language that stir up as much semantic ire as "literally" does. As more and more people have been using "literally" to mean "really," some English speakers fret that the meaning of the word will change. But the truth is that it would hardly be the first.
Why will asking for directions to a time machine get you sent to an ATM in Wisconsin, a request for a sarsaparilla spider gets you a root beer float in Australia, and someone wondering if you've seen their bunnyhug in Saskatchewan is actually searching for their favorite hoodie? Read on to find out.
Science fiction used to sometimes suggest that, as broadcast took over, we would hear less and less distinction in accents. Today though, there is of course not just one "American accent" but several, and regional accents continue to thrive and spread. Why is that and what can we expect to sound like in the future?
You've probably heard that English is being ruined — by the Internet, by texting, by Americans, by young people who have no respect for proper grammar. But it turns out that people have always worried over English, and over the centuries, have accused all sorts of things of "ruining" the language.
As languages acquire new speakers, spread to new geographic areas, and mingle with other languages, they change. But is that change happening as quickly as it once did?
You've probably seen phrases like "Ye Olde Tavern" or "Ye Olde Shoppe" scrawled across English-language signs, trying to evoke a sense of the medieval. But the practice of naming shops this way didn't start until the late 19th century and it was done to make things sound, well, old.
OK has been traced to a 19th century Boston Morning Post article where a writer was satirizing the "new" craze of abbreviations. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.
Triangulations blogger Sabio Lantz recently put together this rather clever diagram showing how the English language has evolved over the past 3,000 years.
As Blaze Miskulin puts it below, "English is a mutt. And a slut. It was born of the random fucking of multiple cultures, languages, and dialects, and it will hop in bed with any language that tickles its fancy. It'a also a thief. English will blatantly steal any word or phrase that it finds interesting. We like it?…
Some letters in the alphabet are workhorses, showing up everywhere and often, while others (looking at you, "Z") are much rarer. But just where does each letter appear with the most frequency? This series of graphs, which plots out the frequency of appearance for each letter, shows us. [UPDATED]
Kory Stamper is a lexicographer over at Merriam-Webster, publishers of dictionaries and thesauruses. She's here today to answer all our questions about how we use language, from 11 - noon (Pacific time).
Languages are evolving, living things, a fact that this graphic that charts just which languages English has been taking its loanwords from over time makes clear.
And it's a monk expressing his displeasure at an abbot. In the margins of a guide to moral conduct. Because of course.
I didn't mean to watch this entire thing, but dammit if I didn't sit through all ten minutes (alright, technically 11 minutes and 20 seconds) of this fantastically witty, animated history of the English language.
Recently, statistical bioinformatician Neil Saunders decided to look for sentence adverbs in close to 100,000 scientific abstracts. (You know sentence adverbs: "Remarkably, the guinea pigs were wearing armor they had fashioned themselves. Unfortunately, it seems humanity's days are numbered.") This is what he found.
Between political disagreements, economic instability, and climate troubles, you might assume every newspaper is full of bad news. Weirdly enough, the exact opposite is true. No matter what's going on in the real world, English is a perversely positive language.
This is truly inspired work. The blog Blackboards in Porn collects examples from the student/teacher porn genre that actually feature chemical formulae, mathematical equations, etc. on the chalk boards located on-set...and then, on behalf of nerds everywhere who just can't help themselves, evaluates them based on…
Science fiction authors from France, Finland and the Netherlands are all putting out books in English, notes Israeli author Lavie Tidhar (who's also publishing a steampunk novel in English.) Why is English the language of science fiction anyway?