Linguist, author of In the Land of Invented Languages, living in Chicago, doing her part to fight off the cot-caught merger and keep "gym shoes" alive.
Webster Edgerly had developed a system for “the management of the body and its members” that if carefully studied and committed to memory would turn anyone into “the PERFECT ACTOR.” Here are explicit instructions from “the Shaftesbury Method” on how to perform 11 tragic emotions.... READ ON
Hearing hundreds of goals called, one right after the other, by excited announcers from various countries, can really make you notice the international differences in goal announcing style.... READ ON
The overarching drive in naming practices over time seems not to be toward giving names pre-determined masculine or feminine properties, but toward keeping them different.... READ ON
These headlines were kind of boring. You'll never guess what happened next.... READ ON
A little fiscal etymology.... READ ON
Circle, square, triangle—boring! There are so many more shapes than those in nature. Good thing there’s a rich vocabulary of fancy scientific words for shapes. Most of them don’t get much use, which is a shame. Get to know a few of these, and describe your world with lexical flair.... READ ON
Nestled in the arid plains of northwestern Spain lies a little village that for a few hundred years has gone by the name Castrillo Matajudíos—in English, Castrillo Kill Jews (or Jew-Killer). How did it get such a name? There are a few different stories.... READ ON
Terrible and terrific are both formed off the same root: terror. Both started out a few hundred years ago with the meaning of terror-inducing. But terrific took a strange turn at the beginning of the 20th century and ended up meaning really great, not terrible or terror-inducing at all.... READ ON
A few years ago, Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson pointed out that the best way to expose a German spy would be to ask them to say the word “squirrel,” because “no German, no matter how well they speak English, can say ‘squirrel.’” So naturally, someone tested the premise and made a video of it. Here is that video (by Tamara Lenz) of 10 Germans trying to way the “squirrel.”... READ ON
Reed Hastings was inspired to start Netflix after a $40 late fee on a VHS copy of Apollo 13.