Protecting our children from profanity

We adults are careful about swearing around our kids. We don’t want bad language to confuse or corrupt or otherwise harm them. As Steven Pinker says in passing while talking about profanity in The
We adults are careful about swearing around our kids. We don’t want bad language to confuse or corrupt or otherwise harm them. As Steven Pinker says in passing while talking about profanity in The [More]

As black as what?

All words, especially kl-words, and no play will make anyone dull. The origin of popular sayings is an amusing area of linguistics, but, unlike the origin of words, it presupposes no technical
All words, especially kl-words, and no play will make anyone dull. The origin of popular sayings is an amusing area of linguistics, but, unlike the origin of words, it presupposes no technical [More]

What makes a good campaign slogan?

Slogan-wise, this year’s presidential campaign gives us Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Hillary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” and “I’m with Her.” Trump’s slogan is a call to bring
Slogan-wise, this year’s presidential campaign gives us Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Hillary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” and “I’m with Her.” Trump’s slogan is a call to bring [More]

A collection of Victorian profanities [infographic]

Euphemisms, per their definition, are used to soften offensive language. Topics such as death, sex, and bodily functions are often discussed delicately, giving way to statements like, "he passed
Euphemisms, per their definition, are used to soften offensive language. Topics such as death, sex, and bodily functions are often discussed delicately, giving way to statements like, "he passed [More]

The heterogeneous “kl”-clan again: “clay,” “clove,” and all, all, all

Last week, I mentioned Francis A. Wood’s rhyme words and rhyme ideas and cited his example cloud and crowd. In my life, such a pair is gleaning and cleaning. The post The heterogeneous “kl”-clan
Last week, I mentioned Francis A. Wood’s rhyme words and rhyme ideas and cited his example cloud and crowd. In my life, such a pair is gleaning and cleaning. The post The heterogeneous “kl”-clan [More]

“All grammars leak”: How modern use and misuse are changing the English language

Anthropologist Edward Sapir once wrote, “Unfortunately, or luckily, no language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak.” Sapir was talking about the irregularities of language. For me, this
Anthropologist Edward Sapir once wrote, “Unfortunately, or luckily, no language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak.” Sapir was talking about the irregularities of language. For me, this [More]

Clouds with and without a silver lining

Engl. cloud belongs so obviously with clod and its kin that there might not even be a question­­­­ of its origin (just one more lump), but for the first recorded sense of clūd in Old English, which
Engl. cloud belongs so obviously with clod and its kin that there might not even be a question­­­­ of its origin (just one more lump), but for the first recorded sense of clūd in Old English, which [More]

The challenge of adult language learning

Adult migrants often struggle to learn the language of their new country. In receiving societies, this is widely seen as evidence that migrants are lazy, lack the required will power or, worse,
Adult migrants often struggle to learn the language of their new country. In receiving societies, this is widely seen as evidence that migrants are lazy, lack the required will power or, worse, [More]

The profanity of disease

Over spring break, I spent a day in Tombstone, Arizona. This is the town where, if you don’t know the story, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, accompanied by their friend Doc Holliday, had a shootout
Over spring break, I spent a day in Tombstone, Arizona. This is the town where, if you don’t know the story, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, accompanied by their friend Doc Holliday, had a shootout [More]

From “O Fortuna” to “Anaconda”: A playlist of musical profanity

Almost everyone swears, or worries about not swearing, from the two-year-old who has just discovered the power of potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene.
Almost everyone swears, or worries about not swearing, from the two-year-old who has just discovered the power of potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene. [More]