The Web of Language

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Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news
Results for "October, 2010"

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  • Lee Lorenz, The New Yorker

    A literal paradox: "literally" generally means 'figuratively'

    The English language is full of paradoxes, like the fact that "literally" pretty much always means 'figuratively.' Other words mean their opposites as well--"scan" means both 'read closely' and 'skim.' "Restive" originally meant 'standing still' but now it often means 'antsy.' "Dust" can mean 'to sprinkle with dust' and 'to remove the dust from something.' "Oversight" means both looking closely at something and ignoring it. "Sanction" sometimes means 'forbid,' sometimes, 'allow.' And then there's "ravel," which means 'ravel, or tangle' as well as its opposite, 'unravel,' as when Macbeth evokes "Sleepe that knits up the rauel'd Sleeue of Care."

  • Killer app: Seven dirty words you can't say on your iPhone

    Apple's latest iPhone app will clean up your text messages and force you to brush up your French, or Spanish, or Japanese, all at the same time.

  • The first computers were called electric or electronic brains in popular reports, like this one appearing in the New York Times on July 30, 1948

    It's alive! New computer learns language like a human, almost

    A computer at Carnegie Mellon University is reading the internet and learning from it in much the same way that humans learn language and acquire knowledge, by soaking it all up and figuring it out in our heads.