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Crib, conjunctions

Around the Web: Cribs, Conjunctions and Listicles

What happens when a language’s last speaker dies? Why can’t we tell a Californian accent from a Canadian one? A linguistic investigation of the term crib (inspired by MTV Cribs) leads back to Shakespeare. Is the listicle a contemporary poetic format akin to the haiku? (What’s a listicle?) Allen Metcalf examines common words at the Lingua Franca blog. [...]

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Are Scrabble tile values in need of an overhaul?

Invented by out-of-work architect Alfred Butts during the Great Depression, Scrabble is a staple of word lovers’ lives. The popularity of this beloved game took off in the mid-1950s and has been an essential part of the canon of classic board games ever since. To determine Scrabble’s tile values, Alfred Butts carefully analyzed letter frequency in [...]

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Lexical Investigations

The Lost Language of Love and Courtship

To modern ears, the following excerpt from Anthony Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right, published in 1869, sounds risqué. Trollope writes: It is not pleasant to make love in the presence of a third person, even when that love is all fair and above board; but it is quite impracticable to do so to a [...]

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Lexical Investigations: Anarchy

Anarchy The word anarchy has held the negative connotations of lawlessness leading to disorder and chaos since the sixteenth century, but in 1840, the first self-proclaimed anarchist started to project a more positive sense of the word. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (pictured) wrote in his work What is Property? that, “property is robbery,” and that, “Although a [...]

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Lexical Investigations: Happiness

“The pursuit of Happiness” was thought to be an unalienable right by the writers of the US Declaration of Independence. However, in 1776, the definition of happiness evoked a different meaning than it does today. When the framers of this historic document wrote about “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” what exactly did they mean by [...]

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