Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Tag: slang

1920s

20 words that originated in the 1920s

The 1920s wasn’t just a period of decadence and flappers in a post-war haze of happiness. While The Great Gatsby drew attention to a world of insouciant pleasure-seeking, the 1920s also saw plenty of words enter the language. Some seem apt for the era, some might surprise, and all twenty selected below have survived for […]

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Pittsburgh-map

Dialect and identity: Pittsburghese goes to the opera

On a Sunday afternoon in November I am at the Benedum Center with hundreds of fellow Pittsburghers watching a performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” It’s the second act, and Papageno the bird-man has just found his true love. The English super-titles help us decipher what he is saying as he starts to exit the […]

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shift

Functional-shifty characters: what’s wrong with this verb?

Loathsome. Wretched. Horrible. These were the words used on a recent Twitter debate about a new usage. If it had gone on much longer, people would doubtless have weighed in with the other heavy hitters of language criticism: Clumsy! Infelicitous! Abomination! Why or how these new usages merit such opprobrium is never explained objectively. After […]

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Pencil, walrus, or handlebar? A guide to words for moustaches

mustache title image

As November begins, many a man’s thoughts turn to facial hair. Millions all over the world consign the razor blades to the bathroom cupboard and attempt to grow a moustache for a very good cause. But moustaches come in many varieties, so whether you are barely capable of bumfluff or have designs on the soup-strainer, […]

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The language of Prohibition-era gangsters: knowing your goons from your gumshoes

model t

Although this blog has already covered a number of the interesting words and phrases associated with the speakeasies of 1920’s and early 1930’s America, the period still has a number of gems. As today marks the anniversary of the conviction of notorious Chicago-based gangster Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, what better reason to revisit some of the […]

Bromance

The rise of the portmanbro

How an abbreviation of brother became a word-forming dynamo For most of its existence in English, the word bro led a quiet and unassuming life. For centuries, it was merely a graphic abbreviation of brother (properly bro.), occasionally put to colloquial use, like sis, to refer to a person’s male sibling. It wasn’t until the […]

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Jimmies, spendy, and shave ice: American regionalisms

ice cream sprinkles

It goes without saying: the United States is a huge country. And while this certainly has some drawbacks (the formidable amount of time it takes to get from one coast to the other, for instance), the United States’ significant landmass also yields significant diversity—particularly when it comes to language. I’m not only talking about the […]

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Puppets, peaches, and other womanly words

Peach

Last month, we took a tour around the world of the macho man, taking in some words in the grand tradition of beefcake on the way. We also discovered that the term beefcake, referring to muscular male physique, was formed on the model of cheesecake, a sexually alluring image of a woman. Sugar and spice […]

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