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?
Koko the Gorilla and mother Jackie

The Legacy of Koko the Gorilla

The jury is still out on whether or not Koko's signing skills proved that apes can learn language. But we certainly learned a lot from the famous gorilla.
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.
prison slang

When Prison Time Meant Rhymes

The “gay, frolicsome and amusing" rhymes of 1970s American prison slang.
paragraph book

What a Paragraph Is

On the controversial directive that a paragraph must contain a topic sentence, an idea that theorists, writers, and students have questioned for decades.
Brothers Grimm

The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

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