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Language Nerds Have Different Ideas About 2014’s Word of the Year

#BlackLivesMatter, vape, culture and exposure are 2014’s biggest words, according to dictionary writers and linguists.

Photo by Flickr user All-Nite Images.

#BlackLivesMatter was a protest chant, a movement, a Twitter hashtag, and now it’s one of 2014’s biggest words of the year, according to the experts over at the American Dialect Society. A group of 226 word nerds- etymologists, grammarians, language scholars, and the like- got together and voted to designate #BlackLivesMatter the most important word to come out of the last year, choosing it over bae, even (as in: “I can’t even”) and manspreading.

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You Say “Immigrant,” I Say “Expat”

Why do some communities claim one label, while some groups can’t shake the other? This Thanksgiving, let’s call the whole thing off.

In many ways, I come from a classic American family. My parents—who moved to the United States from Britain 30 years ago for work and became citizens nearly two decades later—have no intention of ever leaving their adopted homeland. Over the years, their first-generation American children have had to explain to them the finer points of U.S. culture: the significance of a homecoming game, what a grade point average is, and why it was necessary to take a limousine to high school prom. Much to my surprise, they even pronounce “tomato” with a long “a" these days. Despite all that, I do not consider my parents immigrants. Moreover, I’ve never heard them use that word to describe themselves.

Thanks to several centuries of ruthless empire building, the narrative of plucky British immigrants ‘making it’ abroad is one you don't hear very often. Rather, when Brits move abroad they’re far more likely to be called “expats,” a label that conjures up images of sunburned British skin not used to a warm climate and a career in industries like diplomacy, media, or finance. So, if Brits who move to another country aren’t “immigrants,” but rather, “expats,” what exactly is the difference between the two terms? Does the answer lie simply lie in the country one started in, or does it have to do with one’s intention when they arrive in a new place?

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Whore, Prostitute, Hooker, or Sex Worker? What Should You Say?

The New York Post is being sued for calling DSK's accuser a "hooker." Should they have called her a "prostitute" instead?


Prostitutes and the clients who frequent them are back in the news after the woman accusing French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape was herself accused of being an escort. DSK is rumored to be a big fan of prostitutes, which is perhaps what led the New York Post to report that the Guinean Sofitel maid, who claims he orally raped her in his hotel room in May, was "doing double duty as a prostitute, collecting cash on the side from male guests." The maid maintains that the Post is lying, and she filed a libel suit this week that says as much.

You already know how we feel about DSK and the charges against him. We've also talked at length about the ugly media coverage of his case. Of greater interest to me now is "prostitutes"—not the people who have sex with other people for money, the actual word.

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Screaming Yellow Zonkers! Green’s Dictionary is the Bible of Slang

Hilariously subversive (or subversively hilarious), a new slang dictionary challenges the sanctity of language by helping us laugh at life.

Hilariously subversive (or subversively hilarious), a new slang dictionary challenges the sanctity of language by helping us laugh at life.

By far, my greatest interests in life are words and humor. I’m obsessed with both, which is why my favorite comedian is the late George Carlin—the funny man most obsessed with how we talk. Nothing has ever floated the boats of my two obsessions more than a good Carlin DVD or book.

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Snowpocalypse! Blizzaster! We’re Buried in Snow-perbole

The only thing more impressive than this winter's recent snowfall has been the hyperbolic language we've used to describe it.

The only thing more impressive than this winter's recent snowfall has been the hyperbolic language we've used to describe it. SnOMG!

We live in an era of creative exaggeration. Everywhere you look, there’s an ice cream-pocalypse, a TV Guide-mageddon, or a Gaga-pocalypse (in honor of Lady Gaga’s eggy Grammy performance). In fact, we are ever on the verge of an exaggeration-pocalypse or hyperbole-mageddon, based on how much we love those suffixes.

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Lions and Tigers and Vampire Squids, Oh My!

When Matt Taibbi described Goldman Sachs as a "vampire squid," he created a monster of a word for corporate bloodsuckers.

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