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Word Origins And How We Know Them

A laughing etymologist in a humorless crowd

I have noticed that many of my acquaintances misuse the phrases a dry sense of humor and a quiet sense of humor. Some people can tell a joke with a straight face, but, as a rule, they do it intentionally; their performance is studied and has little to do with “dryness.”

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

Yes? Yeah….

Two weeks ago, I discussed the troubled origin of the word aye “yes,” as in the ayes have it, and promised to return to this word in connection with some other formulas of affirmation. The main of them is yes.

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

Monthly etymology gleanings for November 2014

As always, I want to thank those who have commented on the posts and written me letters bypassing the “official channels” (though nothing can be more in- or unofficial than this blog; I distinguish between inofficial and unofficial, to the disapproval of the spellchecker and some editors). I only wish there were more comments and letters.

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A brief history of the e-cigarette

Electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity around the world. With the announcement of vape as our Word of the Year, we have put together a timeline of the history of e-cigarettes.

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Scholarly reflections on ‘bae’

What do you call your loved one? Babe and baby have been used for centuries to discuss small children, and eventually a significant other. With the inclusion of bae on Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year shortlist, we asked a number of scholars for their thoughts on this new word and emerging phenomenon.

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Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Bae’ sonnets

In continuation of our Word of the Year celebrations, I’m presenting my annual butchering of Shakespeare (previous victims include MacBeth and Hamlet). Of the many terms of endearment the Bard used — from lambkin to mouse — babe was not among them.

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Bae in hip hop lyrics

Today we’re here to talk about the word “bae” and the ways in which it’s used in hip hop lyrics. “Bae” is another way of saying babe or baby (though some say it can also function as an acronym for the phrase “before anyone else”). Here are some examples.

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Scholarly reflections on ‘slacktivism’

Whether its the use of Facebook in the 2008 US Presidential election or the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, there are new forms of activism emerging online. But are all these forms of activism equal? With the inclusion of slacktivism on Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year shortlist, we asked a number of scholars for […]

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

The ayes have it

The ayes may have it, but we, poor naysayers, remain in ignorance about the derivation of ay(e) “yes.” I hope to discuss the various forms of assent in December, and we’ll see that that the origin of some synonyms of ay(e) is also enigmatic.

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Put the debate about slacktivism to rest

The term slacktivism is based on a question that should never have been asked: are digital activists doing anything worthwhile, or are they mere “slacktivists,” activists who are slacking off?

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Slacktivism as optical illusion

Slacktivism is a portmanteau, bridging slacker and activism. It is usually not intended as a compliment. The term is born out of frustration with the current state of public discourse: signing an e-petition, retweeting a message, or “liking” something on Facebook seems too easy.

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Slacktivism, clicktivism, and “real” social change

Like its corollary clicktivism, slacktivism is a term that unites entrenched technosceptics and romantic revolutionaries from a pre-Internet or, more precisely, a pre-social media age as they admonish younger generations for their lack of commitment to “real” social change or willingness to do “what it takes” to make the world around them a better place.

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Vaping and the data on e-cigarettes

Vaping is the term for using an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette). Since e-cigarettes involve inhaling vapour rather than smoke, it is distinct from smoking. The vapour looks a somewhat like cigarette smoke but dissipates much more quickly and has very little odour since it mostly consist of water droplets.

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The rise of electronic cigarettes and their impact on public health

A new report from the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows that use of e-cigarettes among high schools students has tripled in two years. The finding raises the question is vaping—the use of tobacco-free electronic cigarettes—an important tool for helping smokers quit or a ploy by Big Tobacco to addict another generation of young people to nicotine?

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