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English language

Hurrah for the Plaza

There has been a proliferation of plazas in the past twenty years, here in New York City but also elsewhere in America, even in Minnesota, where I’m from. Maybe in…

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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. Read More

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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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Broken English

The radio was tuned to NPR, the subject was austerity, and the great observers of our political moment were speaking with their customary authority. The conversation wandered to and fro,…

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Incoherence Abroad

From a letter to Mark Twain, postmarked October 1, 1879, from Carl Jensen, a customs officer in Stubbekøbing, Denmark. Twain’s annotation reads, “Preserve this remarkable letter.” Dear Mark Twain: Letters…

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April 2013