January 23, 1987 |
Izeem pushed aside the stuffed toys in his toy box, reached in and yanked out a game called Connect Four and trotted back to the playroom. He carefully placing the game's checkers on the round openings but became puzzled when they wouldn't fit. After being shown how to drop them down a slot, he sat on the floor and deposited every one, crowing with delight as they hit bottom. "He works on a thing till it's down pat," his foster mother volunteered, laughing. "If it's learning how to open the refrigerator door and close it, we're in trouble.
January 28, 2002 |
LAST MONDAY, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Boston Globe's front page featured a story on what it called the "growing debate" over the use of the word "minority" to refer to racial or ethnic groups. It reported that the "M" word has, to some, "the outdated ring of 'Negro,' 'Oriental,' 'Spanish' and 'Eskimo.' " (Spanish?) Among those making that claim is Charles Yancey, a black member of the Boston City Council. "It implies inferiority and inequity among Americans," he said last year in proposing to ban the term from all city documents.
June 14, 1990 |
Blasting off into the world of reading, 38 second graders at St. Andrew's School in Newtown collectively have read more than 2,100 books during the school year. Challenged by their teacher JoAnn Marotto to beat the record of 1,641 books read by last year's class, the students ripped through the Ramona, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Nancy Drew series, among other reading ventures, in the hope of reaching a reading goal that equaled the year of their high school graduation: 2,000. On paper rocketships the size of 3-by-5 cards, the students recorded the title and author of each book they read and then asked mom or dad to sign the cards.
December 28, 2003 |
Strange new words came out of our mouths in 2003: Bennifer. Embedded. Spider hole. SARS. Every year boasts its own vocabulary, a unique set of words and phrases that suddenly become culturally relevant. Not all the words are necessarily new. But they possess a fresh importance, given current events. "Language is a nice way to remember things," said Erin McKean, senior editor for U.S. dictionaries at Oxford University Press in New York. "January 2003 seems so dim now, but seeing the word SARS brings it into clearer focus.
January 5, 2006 |
And so they will gather again, with nominating slates and campaigns, speeches and votes. They are the American Dialect Society - the nation's wordinistas, as Stephen Colbert would say - and they will attempt, at tomorrow's conclave in Albuquerque, N.M., to sum up 2005 in a word (or two). Some years, they do better than others. The 2004 winner was red state/blue state/purple state, which already seems a bit stale. But Grant Barrett, one of the society's high-definition priests and project editor of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, notes that the political connotations still linger in the colors (and have overtaken communist and blue-collar)
June 30, 2005 |
I CONFESS. I celebrate language, building monuments to thoughts, ideas and ideals with linguistic bricks and mortar. I nudge my readers to stretch their imaginations, reach for a dictionary and discover the well-tempered sentence (chock-full of active verbs, expressive adjectives, dynamic nouns, and prominent participles, gerunds and clauses). Take, for instance, two descriptions of Philadelphia's City Council, on the verge of promulgating some recent legislation. Here's a bland version of events: "City Councilman Michael Nutter couldn't get enough votes to ban smoking in public venues.
July 14, 2009 |
Carlos Castro arrived in Camden from Puerto Rico a quarter-century ago, unable to muster a word of English as a student at East Camden Middle School. But he kept a notepad in his pocket and wrote down everything he saw on the street. At the end of each day, he looked up his observations in a Spanish-English dictionary, memorizing the new words. So, yesterday morning, when Castro's father looked into his eyes and pulled him close, Castro was able to swiftly - and emotionally - translate his father's words into English.
August 16, 1987 |
Three years ago, Holia Barbara Hatoum arrived here from Lebanon to get a college education. She knew not one word of English. No one at Immaculata College spoke her native Farsi, and suddenly she found herself looking at mathematics and chemistry texts in English, instead of the French, which her texts at home were written. "I said to myself, 'I'm never going to make it,' " Hatoum said Tuesday - three years, an Immaculata bachelor's degree in chemistry and thousands upon thousands of English words later.
August 28, 1993 |
Got to be careful with labels in this age of Political Correctness. Accuracy and common sense are good. Following the dictates of the hypersensitive is bad. Ignoring legitimate sensitivities is ugly. The trick is telling apart the good from the bad and from the ugly. But that's not difficult if one seeks honest, straightforward language untainted by dogma. "Physically challenged," for instance, is a silly euphemism that avoids reality. It is bad. "Cripple," a cruel dismissal of a human being with a physical impediment, goes to the other extreme.
May 30, 2004 |
Deborah Boroughs was driving to work west on the Schuylkill Expressway between the Vare and University Avenue exits when she saw a billboard showing a frightened middle-aged man perched on a chair with a phone to his ear. And the words: Ehrlich, The 911 of Pest Control. "My first reaction was that I didn't see that right, that no one could be that insensitive," the nurse from Wallingford said, shocked that a business would be exploiting the World Trade Center tragedy. So she looked again the next day. And she still saw exterminators using Sept.