Getting to YesThe making of our compact, workaday affirmative.
English Spelling Is a Beautiful MessEnglish spelling is so frustratingly idiosyncratic. Here’s why.
No-Uh!On the rise of an exclamatory syllable in English.
Words, for HerOn the origin of woman, girl, and other lady terms.
There Are Two N-WordsLike gangster and gangsta, nigger and nigga have become two distinct words.
An Accidental SanctityBiblical scholar Mark Ward discusses his forthcoming book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible.
Sometimes Just BecauseLanguage is often at the mercy of pure chance.
Whence Baby Mama?John McWhorter answers questions from Lexicon Valley listeners.
From Pidgins to CreolesWhen languages collide and creoles are born.
Did Cavebabies Say Mama and Papa?Languages across the world developed similar words for mom and dad. How is that possible?
In the NegativeJohn McWhorter on the history and evolution of no and not.
The Eccentric Irregularity of BeingThe enduring unusualness of the verb to be.
Mining Graffiti for SlangJohn McWhorter talks to Ben Zimmer about the Vietnam Graffiti Project and other slangy topics.
The Language of Female FriendshipsJohn McWhorter discusses communication styles with linguist Deborah Tannen.
Heyo, Let’s Talk About HamiltonJohn McWhorter talks to linguist Neal Whitman about the mashup of hey and yo.
The Story of PThe 16th letter of our alphabet is a fancy little thing.
Did the Founding Fathers Have a British Accent?What we know about what Washington, Franklin, and Hamilton may have sounded like.
The Inner Workings of OutOn the rich complexities of a humble preposition.
What’s the Deal With Eleven?On the etymology and pronunciation of English numbers.
The Thing Is IsThe problem is, is that we sometimes say is twice. Why?
Thanksgiving MisnomersTurkey? Pumpkin? Squash? They’re all mistakes.
Against Strunk and WhiteIt’s time to permanently shelve The Elements of Style.
Este No Es Parqueo: A Brief Ode to SpanishAn infelicitous parking job inspires musings on the Spanish language.
Do Languages Simplify Over Time?Old English was arguably more complicated than Modern English. Is that true of all languages?
New Life for Dying LanguagesThe Language Conservancy’s Wil Meya discusses the effort to revive Native American languages.
Why Do Languages Have Contractions?An explanation for our love of shrinkage.
Is There a Jewish Way of Talking?Interrupting the hosts of Unorthodox to discuss hallmarks and stereotypes of Jewish communication style.
That’s Not a Word, Is It?John McWhorter discusses the near-futile impulse to determine what is, and what is not, a word.
The Euphemism TreadmillThe evolution from crippled to handicapped to differently abled—and why no such term is likely to stick around long.
1930s American English Was Profane, Parochial, and ProvincialJohn McWhorter time-travels to 1930 and eavesdrops on American English.