Tag Archives: The Week

Beatboxing: the podcast

A couple of years ago, I did an article on beatboxing for The Week – how much of it is made of tweaked-up speech sounds. We’ve dug it up and turned it into a podcast now. If you have seven minutes and are curious, give it a listen:

A phonological description of beatbox noises

Hebrew and Yiddish words, we have them

My last article for The Week was on words we got from Arabic. This time it’s words we got from Hebrew and Yiddish. You’ll probably know about some of these. You’ll probably be surprised by some others.

15 English words you probably didn’t know came from Hebrew and Yiddish

 

You can’t get through the day (or night) without Arabic

My latest article for The Week is on words that English got from Arabic. We’ve taken more than you might think, but I look at just 15… including some that you probably can’t go very long without.

15 English words we stole from Arabic

(PS Let me remind you that the magazine writes the title after I’ve written the article and sent it to them.)

Not nice, not silly, actually rather awful

My latest article for The Week is about words with meanings that have travelled quite a bit over the centuries. It’s not that they’ve clouded or warped the senses, but their histories are likely to throw you, or at least leave you in doubt.

11 words whose meanings have completely changed over time

 

In excelsis in excess?

Is it possible to try too hard? Sure. People do it every year around Christmas. One of the ways they do it is by trying too hard to pronounce in excelsis right and ending up saying (or singing) it wrong – making too many sounds. Sometimes the highest and best is not the most. Here’s my latest article for The Week:

How do you pronounce ‘in excelsis’?

 

Talking turkey

Last year I did an article on what the turkey is called in different languages – and why. This year we (specifically my splendid producer at The Week, Lauren Hansen, and I) made an audio version of it. So you get to hear me saying the words for ‘turkey’ in all those different languages. Give it a listen!

How the Thanksgiving turkey was named after the country Turkey

 

Normal, standard, regular, ordinary

Other writers on language have explored the word normalize and its history: Hua Hsu in The New Yorker, Nancy Friedman on her blog Fritinancy, Mark Peters in the Boston Globe, the lexicographers of Merriam-Webster on their blog… But the question no one has addressed so far is: Why can’t we use standardize or regularize in place of normalize? We could conceivably use make ordinary – but why doesn’t ordinary have a verb form, anyway?

So here’s my answer, in my latest article for The Week:

What does normalize even mean?