A woman writing a letter at a table

The Ladylike Language of Letters

Letters reveal how language changes. They also offer a peek into the way people--especially women--have always constructed their private and public selves.
Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse, from Jane Austen's Emma

Jane Austen’s Subtly Subversive Linguistics

Why are Jane Austen books still so beloved? A linguist argues it has more to do with Austen's masterful use of language than with plot.
Neon text on the side of a building reads "All we have is words, all we have is worlds."

The Hidden Life of Modal Verbs

A linguist explains why we get so distracted by the fiery language of politics, while ignoring urgent information reported by scientists.
hawaii stars lava mana

The Mysterious Mana of Speaking

The Austronesian concept of "mana" helps us understand that behind the monolithic "magic" of modern power and authority, there is a fragile human dimension.
Woman shakes head in blurred motion against business buzzwords

The Tangled Language of Jargon

What our emotional reaction to jargon reveals about the evolution of the English language, and how the use of specialized terms can manipulate meaning.
Appalachian Mountains dialect

The Legendary Language of the Appalachian “Holler”

Is the unique Appalachian dialect the preserved language of Elizabethan England? Left over from Scots-Irish immigrants? Or something else altogether?
compliments

The Uncertain Art of the American Compliment

The way Americans compliment is maximalist and enthusiastic, but it may not always be sincere. Our resident linguist unpacks the language of politeness.
drag queen

The Unspeakable Linguistics of Camp

When gay and lesbian people had to invent their own languages with which to talk with each other, camp led the way.
Brothers Grimm

The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

How the Brothers Grimm went hunting for fairytales, accidentally changed the course of historical linguistics, and kickstarted a new field of scholarship in folklore.
Second Amendment language

Revisiting the Messy Language of the Second Amendment

The debate over the Second Amendment is not just about guns—it's also about grammar.