Tag: Language and Languages

What the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict Says About Justice in America

Wow. Yet another punch in the face to the thousands of women abuse survivors incarcerated for acts of self-defense. This verdict had nothing to do with justice. This verdict was a clear message about power and control, and exactly who in American society is permitted to hold it. Valerie M. FieldSea Cliff, N.Y. To the […]

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Barbara Kruger: Infinitely Copied, Still Unmatched

CHICAGO — At the entrance of “Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.” the striking, flag-planting new Barbara Kruger retrospective (and elaboration) at the Art Institute of Chicago, you’re greeted with one of the artist’s videos, installed like a blockade. It’s of an image being assembled like a jigsaw puzzle, clacking loudly with […]

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Why Wokeness Has So Many Opponents

Language is extremely powerful. The stories it tells become our greatest religions, the credos of great nations and the mantras of our greatest wars. The ways in which we define people and things can be liberating or trammeling; they can advance the cause of liberty and equality or cause societies to regress. It is for […]

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Grandiloquent Words

Hornswoggle: To deceive or cheat. “Hornswoggle” fits right into the kind of frontier speech caricatured by Yosemite Sam, but outside its association with the cartoon gunslinger there is almost no information on the word. OED describes it as “probably fanciful,” meaning it may have been made up. Hornswoggle also happens to be the name of […]

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Some Hear Grammar Don’ts. I Hear the Future of English.

It may seem from some of my recent newsletters — championing “they” as a singular pronoun and “me” as a subject pronoun — that there’s something about being a linguist that makes one strangely permissive about what language is supposed to be like. And there is. Before technology existed to stay underwater long enough to […]

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‘Vax’ Is Oxford’s 2021 Word of the Year

It was only decades later, according to Oxford’s report on its research, that “vaccine” came to be used for inoculation against other diseases. Curiously, while the shortened form “vax” did not appear until the 1980s, the term “anti-vax” — spelled “anti-vacks” — appeared early. “The Anti-Vacks are assailing me … with all the force they […]

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The 20-Year Contest to Crack the Code of the Rosetta Stone

THE WRITING OF THE GODSThe Race to Decode the Rosetta StoneBy Edward Dolnick On a steamy day in July 1799, a member of a French military work detail at a tumbledown fort in the Nile Delta made an unusual discovery. Amid a pile of rubble being used for a renovation project, he noticed a 4-foot-by-3-foot […]

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Bringing Attention to the Maori Language, One Song at a Time

In August, Lorde released her third album, “Solar Power.” Three weeks later, she put out an EP called “Te Ao Marama,” with five songs from the record translated into Maori, the Indigenous language of New Zealand. The second release was no mere afterthought — it was part of longtime conversations in her native country about […]

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Controversial Words You Can Use

Do we really think “honestly” is a waste? In his classic analysis of how speaking works, the philosopher H.P. Grice taught that conversation is founded on being informative, truthful, relevant and clear. Those points may seem too obvious to be listed as new information. But the full humanity of language gets interesting once we understand […]

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Gender-Neutral Pronouns: The Singular ‘They’ and Alternatives

The most natural coinages would be those that form a set with “she” and “he” such as “que” (“kwee”), “re” and “xe.” Could anything be closer to the heart of the L.G.B.T.Q. community than the first of those? And this is just a starter in the brainstorming exercise. The nonbinary community may pick it up […]

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French Language Laws Renew Rift With Quebec’s English Speakers

MONTREAL — Since Aude Le Dubé opened an English-only bookshop in Montreal last year, she has had several unwelcome guests each month: Irate Francophones, sometimes draped in Quebec flags, who storm in and berate her for not selling books in French. “You would think I had opened a sex shop at the Vatican,” mused Ms. […]

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R. Allen Gardner, 91, Dies; Taught Sign Language to a Chimp Named Washoe

Washoe was 10 months old when her foster parents began teaching her to talk, and five months later they were already trumpeting her success. Not only had she learned words; she could also string them together, creating expressions like “water birds” when she saw a pair of swans and “open flower” to gain admittance to […]

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A.C.L.U. Apologizes for Tweet That Altered Quote by Justice Ginsburg

Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Monday that he regretted that a tweet sent out recently by his organization altered the words of a well-known quote by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The A.C.L.U. tweet, which was sent out Sept. 18, changed Justice Ginsburg’s words, replacing […]

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