Lexicon Valley
Lexicon Valley

The Euphemism Treadmill

The evolution from crippled to handicapped to differently abled—and why no such term is likely to stick around long.

April 4 2017 1:31 PMHeyo, Let’s Talk About HamiltonJohn McWhorter talks to linguist Neal Whitman about the mashup of hey and yo.
Feb. 7 2017 1:05 PMLike, Why Do We Use Like So Much?John McWhorter talks to sociolinguist Alexandra D’Arcy about the spike in our use of like.
Jan. 10 2017 1:13 PMWhy We Stopped Teaching Children How to ReadMark Seidenberg, author of Language at the Speed of Sight, discusses the fallout from the reading wars.
Dec. 13 2016 3:33 PMWhat The Wizard of Oz Can Tell Us About ArrivalIn Arrival, Amy Adams plays a linguist who discovers that language can radically alter a person’s perception of reality. But is that true?
Nov. 15 2016 2:00 PMLanguage Lessons of Past PresidentsWhat can we learn about English from Bill Clinton, the two Bushes, and other leaders of the free world?
Oct. 18 2016 3:55 PMWhy Do People in Old Movies Talk Like That?What Bette Davis, FDR, and Ralph Kramden have in common when it comes to speech.
Sept. 20 2016 1:26 PMWhat Is a Dictionary, Really?John Simpson, former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, talks about life as a lexicographer.
Aug. 23 2016 2:20 PMWord SexHow words hook up and make new ones.
July 26 2016 2:13 PMAre Emojis a Language?Gretchen McCulloch talks to John McWhorter about the big meaning behind our favorite little pictograms.
June 29 2016 10:44 AMRules Are Made to Be SpokenSali Tagliamonte, author of Making Waves: The Story of Variationist Sociolinguistics, talks about the underlying disorder of the English language.
May 31 2016 12:16 PMWhy Are So Many Swear Words Monosyllabic?Benjamin K. Bergen, author of the upcoming What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, discusses the science of cursing.
May 3 2016 11:14 AMThe Blaccent: What Does It Mean to Sound Black?Linguist John McWhorter argues that it makes perfect sense for the speech of black and white Americans to have subtle differences.
April 4 2016 9:31 AMIs Sh-t Show a German Calque? The OED Needs Your Help!The earliest known citation for the phrase is from an English-language translation of a 1970s criminal trial in Germany. But what was the word or phrase being translated?
Feb. 22 2016 5:12 PMThe Full, Firm, Valiant, and Heavy-Hearted TrumpDonald Trump calls people (and publications) he doesn’t like sad. When did that word become an insult?
Jan. 27 2016 2:00 PMThe Fall and Rise of the Singular TheyA pronoun that English borrowed from its Scandinavian neighbors gets new life as a gender-neutral alternative to he and she.
March 21 2017 4:31 PM1930s American English Was Profane, Parochial, and ProvincialJohn McWhorter time-travels to 1930 and eavesdrops on American English.
Jan. 24 2017 12:04 PMWhat Had Happened Was StorytellingJohn McWhorter discusses the subject of his new book, Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca.
Dec. 27 2016 1:10 PMAway in a Penthouse, the Little Lord JesusWhen hath gave way to has, the original meaning of merry, and other insights from popular Christmas carols.
Nov. 30 2016 12:03 PMBlack Like UsAre the slang, sounds, and syntax of black English a kind of lingua franca for America’s youth?
Nov. 1 2016 3:18 PMWhither Didst Thou Go?How our rich and complex system of second-person pronouns got whittled down to just you.
Oct. 4 2016 12:03 PMBilly and Me Went to the Store. Deal With It.What do the intricacies of the future tense tell us about the unwritten rules of pronouns?
Sept. 6 2016 5:06 PMHickory Dickory Dock: The Invisible Language of Nursery RhymesJohn McWhorter makes linguistic sense of seemingly arbitrary children’s verse.
Aug. 8 2016 3:33 PMShould Shakespeare Get a Modern-English Update?John McWhorter talks with author Jack Lynch about the sacrilege of modified Shakespeare.
July 12 2016 7:30 AMFinding Life in a Dead LanguageAnn Patty, author of Living With a Dead Language, talks about her transformative experience of learning Latin.
June 14 2016 4:11 PMEnglish Spelling Is a Mess. It’s Time to Reform It.Etymologist and poet Anatoly Liberman, author of Word Origins and How We Know Them, says English is one of the most difficult languages to spell. But we can change that.
May 17 2016 11:33 AMWhy Some People Call Rock-Paper-Scissors RoshamboHow an American Revolutionary War figure spawned a new name for a very old game.
April 19 2016 11:25 AMRed Herring: A Wild Goose Chase That Stinks From FishHow did Clupea harengus come to signify a diversionary tactic?
March 8 2016 11:08 AMTake It With a Grain of Salt! But Why a Single Grain? And Why Salt?A phrase with roots in Ancient Rome has confounded English speakers for centuries.
Feb. 8 2016 10:22 AMA British MP Called Donald Trump a Wazzock. What’s a Wazzock?A peculiar insult from the north of England has the Oxford English Dictionary stumped.
Jan. 11 2016 11:55 AMThe Origins of In Cahoots: Four Theories

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