Trying To Stop Words From Changing Their Meanings Is "Literally" Useless

Lately, it seems that there are few words in the English language that stir up as much semantic ire as "literally" does. As more and more people have been using "literally" to mean "really," some English speakers fret that the meaning of the word will change. But the truth is that it would hardly be the first. » 3/26/15 1:10pm Thursday 1:10pm

Dammit, Science Writers Are Not Afraid To Curse

On his eponymous personal blog, Nature Chemistry editor Stuart Cantrill offers a post on "how sweary Nature has been over the years," spurred by the use of "bollocks" in a 2014 piece on e-cigarettes. » 2/20/15 6:00pm 2/20/15 6:00pm

How The Simpsons Changed the English Language

Over at the Oxford Dictionaries blog, there's an essay by author and Indiana University at Bloomington professor Michael Adams that investigates how The Simpsons has helped shape the English language over the past 25 years. » 12/18/14 9:40am 12/18/14 9:40am

New Study Shows We Take "The Pursuit of Happiness" Too Literally

According to the Declaration of Independence, we are all endowed by our creator with the "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But according to psychologists, we take that phrase a bit more literally than we ought to. » 9/30/14 11:40am 9/30/14 11:40am

The Eccentric Polish Count Who Influenced Classic SF's Greatest Writers

You've probably never heard of Alfred Korzybski, but he was famous in the mid-20th century. He didn't just invent a whole new science, he also had a huge influence on Robert A. Heinlein and a ton of other important science fiction authors. Author Lee Konstantinou brings us the strange tale of Count Korzybski. » 9/05/14 8:00am 9/05/14 8:00am

Is This a Footprint, or Bootprint?

Think twice before using "mankind" to mean "all humanity," say scholars

What's wrong with "mankind"? It's at the heart of one of the greatest semantic debates of our time. Some say the word is gender-neutral and means "all humanity." To others, "mankind" sounds gender specific and means "a bunch of men without women." They prefer "humanity" or "humankind." So who is correct? To find out,… » 11/20/12 3:58pm 11/20/12 3:58pm

The "QWERTY Effect" is changing what words mean to us

Back in the 1870s, a newspaper editor named Christopher Latham Sholes rearranged the letters on typewriters so that the keys would stop jamming. The result was the QWERTY keyboard... and his innovation has actually fundamentally altered how we think about words. » 3/08/12 1:26pm 3/08/12 1:26pm