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Lefty Lingo

The only letter I’ve ever sent to the New York Times was in the 1980s, objecting to the paper’s suddenly pestilent use of “draconian.” During Iran–Contra the complaint must have…

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Semantic Drift

Regarding the purported rules of En­glish syntax, we tend to divide into mutually hostile camps. Hip, open-­minded types relish the never-­ending transformations of the way we speak and write. They…

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Hurrah for the Plaza

An appreciation for the diversity of life

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Grammar Yahtzee

From a post on Object Dreams, a Tumblr blog. The post is a rewriting of The Elements of Style using predictive text, a program that assists typing by anticipating which…

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Eat Me

From translations into English of dishes served at 274 restaurants in Seoul, South Korea. The list was compiled by the Korea Tourism Organization and included in a report that suggests…

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Alcoholics Synonymous

From a list of slang terms used by British students to describe drunkenness or the effects of drugs, included by Tony Thorne in the fourth edition of the Dictionary of…

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The Operative’s Words

From the CIA’s 2011 style guide, recently acquired by the National Security Counselors, a legal nonprofit, following a Freedom of Information Act request.

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Customs of the Country

By Suki Kim, from notes she took during teacherorientation sessions at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, included in her book, Without You, There Is No Us, out next…

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Cite Unseen

From forty-nine citations that the Oxford English Dictionary attributes to the book Meanderings of Memory, by an author known only as Nightlark, believed to have been published in 1852. In…

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July 2013

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