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Phonaesthesia Word Connotations

Why do words that begin with sn—sneer, snarl, snot, snide, snake, snooty—all have negative connotations? Phonaesthesia, a phenomenon whereby we associate certain sounds with particular meanings, may hold the answer. Linguist and cognitive scientist...

Curse of Knowledge

It’s all about terms of endearment: If your loved one is far away for a long time, you’re probably tired of just saying “I miss you” over and over. For variety’s sake, there are some creative alternatives to that phrase...

That Song in Your Head

If someone clapped out the rhythm of a song you knew, would you recognize it? It’s pretty unlikely, given what’s called the curse of knowledge. To the person with the song in their head, it’s obvious, but you can’t expect...

Steven Pinker’s Advice for Writers

Steven Pinker’s new book, The Sense of Style, which Martha cites among her all-time favorite books about writing, has just the right message: don’t worry so much about the errors, because you’ll make them, and if writing...