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Results for "December, 2010"

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  • Top ten language stories of 2010

    2010 was a year rich in stories about language, not the uplifting kind that celebrate effective, poetic communication, but stories about attempts to regulate language, stifle it, even kill it off outright. Here are the top 10 language stories of the year, in no particular order.

  • WTF is the 2010 Word of the Year

    WTF is the 2010 Word of the Year. Each December the Web of Language chooses one word or phrase which best exemplifies the spirit of the year gone by. It may be a new word, like "refudiate," chosen as word of the year this year by the Oxford American Dictionary, or an old one, like "austerity," Merriam-Webster's choice. It could be a word that lasts: "blog" and "information superhighway" were words of the year. But it could be an obscure word as well: "locavore," for example, which few people had a taste for, or worse yet, "plutoed," a word with the visibility of a very dim comet (neither word was Web of Language approved). Then there was "roadside bomb." That morbid phrase appeared in so many daily headlines about the War in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 that it was the Web of Language word of the year two years running.

  • Long before the culturome, Geoffrey Chaucer knew that fame was fleeting

    Books by the numbers

    People judge you by the words you use. This warning, once the slogan of a vocabulary building course, is now the mantra of the new science of culturomics. In "Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books" (Michel, et al., Science, Dec. 17, 2010), a Harvard-led research team introduces "culturomics" as "the application of high throughput data collection and analysis to the study of human culture." In plain English, they crunched a database of 500 billion words contained in 5 million books published between 1500 and 2008 in English and several other languages and digitized by Google. The resulting analysis provides insight into the state of these languages, how they change, and how they reflect culture at any given point in time. In still plainer English, they turned Google Books into a massively-multiplayer online game where players track word frequency and guess what writers from 1500 to 2008 were thinking, and why. The words you use tell the culturonomists exactly who you are--and they can even graph the results!

  • President sends Americans to the dictionary

    Earlier this week, Pres. Barack Obama sent Americans running to the dictionary when he called Democrats opposing his compromise on tax cuts "sanctimonious." At a Dec. 7 press conference, the president accused Republicans of holding middle-class tax cuts hostage and scolded those Democrats taking an uncompromisingly "purist" position against the tax-cut extension: it allows us to "feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are," but in the end it prevents us from getting anything done.