• Why is the San Francisco football team called the 49ers?

    When the California Gold Rush began in 1848, American football didn’t exist. But those aggressive gold miners would give their nickname to a football team one hundred years later. Gold was first found in Northern California in January 1848, and it took about a year for the news to travel and inspire thousands of fortune […]

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  • Lexical Investigations: Appendix

    A motley combination of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Germanic dialects, the English language (more or less as we know it) coalesced between the 9th and 13th centuries. Since then, it has continued to import and borrow words and expressions from around the world, and the meanings have mutated. (Awesome and awful once meant nearly the same […]

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  • Was Saussure wrong?

    Welcome to the second installment in our series on Ferdinand de Saussure and the linguistic science of semiology. Now where were we? In the last post we discussed Saussure’s theory of the “sign” as a combination of the “signified” (the concept represented by a word) and the “signifier” (the spoken or written word doing the […]

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  • Where do words come from? Do they really mean anything?

    How do we use language? We use it to express ourselves through speech, to record our experiences or to invent and tell stories in writing. But before all that begins, before a word leaves our lips or a pen hits the page, we use language in our heads. This code we share is more than […]

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  • Words You Want to Banish in 2013

    Last week, we discussed the Worst Words of 2012. We were originally inspired by past lists from Lake Superior State University in Michigan. Every year they compile words that were misused, overused, and abused, and this week they released their list for 2013, which included some choice words that we had overlooked:

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