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A Blue Million

Ian in Clyde, North Carolina, is puzzled when a colleague uses the term blue million, meaning “a large amount.” Along with words like zillion and gazillion, this expression functions as an indefinite hyperbolic numeral. Sometimes the...

Word Birth

The question of how children acquire language has long intrigued parents and scholars. MIT cognitive scientist Deb Roy recently found a novel way to study what he calls “word birth.” He wired his home with cameras and microphones, and...

drifting

drifting  n.— «Sheriff’s Deputy Paul McRedmond says Kevin Enderlin was speeding in a car that crossed the centerline on a southeast Portland road and collided with a van. McRedmond says investigators believe Enderlin might have been...

dumbpipe

dumbpipe  n.— «The carriers picked up the unflattering nickname “dumbpipes,” underscoring their strict noninterference in the Internet traffic surging over their networks. The name heightened resentment among the carriers...

lagom

lagom  n.— «Lagom: From the Swedish, most commonly translated as “just enough,” it’s an approach to both design and consumption that explains the essence of brands like Ikea and Volvo. We see notions of minimalism and...

gravy plane

gravy plane  n.— «You’ve heard of the “gravy train?”…Well, my book reveals the “gravy plane”—it is to my knowledge the first definitive work in the United States on the massive subsidies that flow from various federal...