Robert Redford, The Great Gatsby (1974)

When Very Bad Words Are the Sh*t (Linguistically Speaking)

The fact that people can use “literally” about things that can’t possibly be factual may literally make your blood boil.
From a poster for Charles Frohman’s dramatic production, The Hand of Destiny by Pierre Decourcelle, 1896

Why Did “Thieves’ Cant” Carry an Unshakeable Allure?

If thieves’ cant—a language known only to criminals—was the Devil’s cabinet, bourgeois society couldn’t help but peep inside.
A couple expressing affection

The Language of Your Love Life

Pet names and baby talk between lovers can be cringe-worthy and even incriminating. So why do couples use such lovey-dovey language?
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.
A chocolate orange meant to symbolize Brexit.

The Many Metaphors of Brexit

How do metaphors shape political perceptions? And what do they mean for the future of Europe?
A woman's face lit up in a dark room

People with Depression Use Language Differently

New research shows that people with depression use absolute words, such as "always," "nothing," or "completely," more often than others.
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.