Same word + new meaning = different confusion

Nonbinary pride flag

Happy 2020! It’s the start of a brand-new decade that’s sure to bring changes we can’t yet imagine. Turning points like this inspire language observers of every ilk to focus on how our common lexicon has evolved during the past ten years. Various language-focused organizations revealed their selections for 2019 Word of the Year (WOTY)…

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What’s in a name? More people than you may expect

dunce cap

New words enter the English lexicon in all kinds of ways. They may originate in slang, migrate in from other languages, expand from regional dialects or even morph from brand names into general terminology (e.g. Kleenex, Xerox, Jell-o, Band-Aid, and Google as a verb). Some transition from the name of an inventor or researcher into…

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When vowels change: The Great Vowel Shift

great vowel shift

What would you do if you woke up one morning and heard the people around you speaking a familiar language, but differently? If all their utterances made sense but were spoken…wrong, somehow, it could feel disorienting at the least. That’s more or less what happened in southern England during the 15th and 16th centuries during…

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The secret life of ink


If you’re in one of the professional services, you probably don’t think a lot about ink. You know – the stuff that fills pens and printer cartridges and seems to cost more than it should. Fun fact: you’re not imagining those exorbitant prices. Ounce for ounce, ink costs more than blood on the open market.…

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The punctuation puzzle that is President(?) Day

presidents day

Today is a holiday; that much we know. But what exactly is that holiday called? Is it President’s Day? Presidents’ Day? Presidents Day? Or something else entirely? It all started with George Washington, who was born in 1731 – or maybe 1732. The holiday we celebrate on the third Monday in February began as a…

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Happy Public Domain Day!

public domain day

Yes, we have no bananas! No bananas, perhaps, but we do have access to a fun song with plenty more where that came from. January 1, 2019 marks a major event – and no, it’s not just another chance to make good on resolutions. Sure, you can save money, organize your home and lose all…

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All about ablaut reduplication

ablaut reduplication

Language is full of rules, no matter which one you speak. The funny thing is that we often know and follow the rules of our mother tongue without ever recognizing that there’s even a rule involved. If someone asked you to share your feelings about ablaut reduplication, what would you do? If you’re like most…

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5 pairs of words that practically beg for misuse

confusing words

In writing, mistakes are inevitable. That doesn’t make them any less regrettable or embarrassing though, especially when they’re preventable. Often, the most troublesome words closely resemble others that may or may not be related but are definitely distinct. In the interest of helping business writers avoid some of the most common errors, here are five…

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English expands again


All modern languages are alive, in that they grow and change as a response to the way their speakers use them. English, as the most widely spoken language on earth today, expands at a rapid clip. While it’s easy to observe these changes first-hand, we can also look to the dictionaries for notice because they…

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Decimating news from the front lines of language

what does decimate mean

The English language holds no shortage of pitfalls for writers. With so many cognates and words that are almost-but-not-quite the same, it’s no wonder that mistakes riddle our communications. Sometimes these errors are accidental; other times the misuse reflects a downright ornery refusal to stick within accepted usage guidelines. Editors may sneer, proof-readers pooh-pooh, and…

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