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The Vocabula Review

 

Amalia Gnanadesikan

Amalia Gnanadesikan
I've been hearing a lot about pronouns lately. These parasitic little words mean almost nothing in themselves, but they can acquire meaning from other words around them. By itself, them means nothing beyond some notion of plurality, but if I say, "Tigers are beautiful; I like them," them now suddenly means "tigers." By putting them in a different context I could equally well have made it mean "senators," "amoebae," "children," "equations," or any other plural noun you can think of. Pronouns are the chameleons of language.


Paul McFedries

Paul McFedries
What could be more relevant, more interesting, more fun than new words? Well, yes, lots of things. However, for many people a newly minted word is one of life's little pleasures, something that can be counted among what James Boswell called "the small excellencies." But then there are those of us who have been stricken with a malady that I call neologophilia, the intense attraction — oh, why not say it? — the love of new words.


David Isaacson

David Isaacson
I am of two minds about the motto of The Vocabula Review: "A society is generally as lax as its language." The law-abiding part of me agrees that language has rules that should be followed carefully and perhaps also strictly enforced. If we're lax about obeying these rules we risk being misunderstood. If we don't follow conventions of standard usage we run the risk of not only being confused but bewildered. Even worse, some lax language is not just sloppy but deliberately vague. It is in the interest of bureaucracies as well as individual control freaks to hoodwink us with deceptive language. Big Brother spoke Newspeak in 1984 because that pared down, unambiguous language helped him control thought and therefore also the behavior of the citizens of the totalitarian state of Oceania.



The March issue of The Vocabula Review is due online March 21.


 

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