Nursery rhymes rely on meter and rhyme to stick into our memories. When we remember them, we do not remember just the words; we remember them in time, sometimes even with their pitch.
As we’ve discussed before, if you live in Michigan, you may consider yourself a Michigander or a Michiganian. (Check it out.) But why are demonyms so various and seemingly random? (A demonym is any name derived from a place. The word “demonym” was coined by Paul Dickson, an editor at Merriam-Webster, in his 1997 book Labels for Locals. Californian, Frenchmen, New Yorker, and Swiss are all demonyms.) CONTINUE READING »
The biggest surprises tend to hide in plain sight. We’ve found this to be true with the origins of words like hello (check it out), and especially the somewhat naughty roots of Miss (read about that here.) With noon, we’ve uncovered a remarkable fact that will change how you think of 12:00.
First, some essential background. Clocks and watches are relatively CONTINUE READING »
Graphologists, or self-proclaimed handwriting experts, claim that it does. Specifically they claim that individuals who share certain personality traits write in a similar fashion, so graphologists analyze handwriting to deduce the character traits of the writer. In the early 1900s, Milton Newman Bunker invented the most common graphology technique called graphoanalysis. (Other methods of graphology predate Bunker’s work.) His approach relies on the stroke shape of the letters. CONTINUE READING »
Every work of literature relies on the dictionary. Many writers would say that the goal of fiction is to use powerful words to tell a story without calling attention to the words themselves. A small number of books, however, actually make words, meaning, and language their plot or even transform the workings of language into characters. This practice is called meta-fiction, and today we pay tribute to one meta-fictional work that famously stretches readers’ minds while making them laugh. CONTINUE READING »
On Saturday the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry proposed the names of two new elements. Currently element number 114 and element number 116 do not have official names in the periodic table of elements. The elements were previously known as ununquadium and ununhexium. Those long, unpronounceable words were the temporarily used systematic element names. CONTINUE READING »
In English class, your grade does not differentiate between how large your vocabulary is and how well you write a sentence, but new research shows that your brain does. This evidence may mean that increasing your vocabulary does not necessarily influence one’s fluency when learning a new language.
Two parts of the brain, Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, play a large CONTINUE READING »
This time of year we are all making our lists and checking them twice. All this holiday shopping got us thinking: where do the words gift and present come from? Why does English use both? It’s not just so that children can ask for toys in multiple ways.