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453 Segments




Steve, Myself And i: The Big Story Of A Little Prefix.

The "i" prefix began as an abbreviation for the word "Internet," but ended up being much more than that. "By the time i- was fleshed out, Apple had transformed itself from a culty computer-maker to a major religion," says linguist Geoff Nunberg.


Unlike Most Marxist Jargon, 'Class Warfare' Persists.

Words like "proletariat" and "masses" have largely left the lexicon, but linguist Geoff Nunberg says "class warfare" is a specter that haunts the English language — whenever there are appeals for making the rich pay more.


No Language Legacy: Where's The Sept. 11 Vocab?

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, linger in our thoughts, but not so much in our speech. Linguist Geoff Nunberg says "it's striking that 9/11 and its aftereffects have left almost no traces in the language of everyday life."


What The Word 'Compromise' Really Means.

Linguist Geoff Nunberg says the compromises we refuse to make say the most about our character. "Sometimes we stand on principle for the heady satisfaction of showing that we can't be pushed around," he says.


Bad Apple Proverbs: There's One In Every Bunch

The phrase "a few bad apples" is much more popular now than it was decades ago. Linguist Geoff Nunberg says the phrase may owe its popularity to a change in meaning -- and The Osmond Brothers.


'We're Broke': Empty Bank Accounts, Empty Meaning?

Linguist Geoff Nunberg says everyone's using the phrase "we're broke" these days to justify cuts in government programs and services. But what does "we're broke" actually mean? The answer, says Nunberg, is tricker than you think.


Sam Chwat, Dialect Coach To The Stars (And To Us)

Sam Chwat, a dialect specialist who worked closeley with people in business, politics and the film industry who wanted to lose their regional accents, died last Thursday. in 1994, Chwat explained how he helped clients like Robert DeNiro and Julia Roberts lose their famous accents.


Knowing Geoff Nunberg's 2010 Word Of The Year

Well, no, we're not going to tell you. No, no, no. Not even if you ask politely. But here's a hint: It's a "primordial one-word response" that perfectly encapsulates the aura -- no, make that the prevailing zeitgeist -- of 2010.


Was Jane Austen Edited? Does It Matter?

For most readers, the beauty of Jane Austen's style lies in her elegant syntax and punctuation. Now, an Oxford scholar has created a furor by suggesting that the credit for Austen's style should really be given to the man who edited her novels. But linguist Geoff Nunberg remains skeptical.


Fresh Air Remembers Newsman Edwin Newman

We listen back to excerpts from a 1988 interview with the NBC broadcaster, whose fascination with linguistic excess led to a series of books about the English language. During his long career Newman covered President Kennedy's assassination and the Six-Day War. He died on Aug. 13 at age 91.


Maybe We All Need Some 'Sensitivity' Training

Linguist Geoff Nunberg says the word "sensitive" was complicated long before it was political. These days, "sensitivities" can be a stand-in for a lot of different attitudes -- some more defensible than others. Our modern stress on sensitivities, he says, probably set back cultural understanding as much as it has advanced it.


Refudiate? Repudiate? Let's Call The Whole Thing Off.

When Sarah Palin used the word "refudiate," she took a lot of flak -- both for saying she coined the word deliberately and then comparing herself to Shakespeare. Linguist Geoff Nunberg says political slips and errors aren't half as interesting as the way people react to them.


Haiku Takes To Twitter, 140 Characters At A Time.

The pithy, 17-syllable poems fit neatly into Twitter's 140-character limit. "Twaiku" has taken off. Linguist Geoff Nunberg says the pervasive little poems have filled the cultural space that was once occupied by light verse.


'Equation,' 'Gingerly' And Other Linguistic Pet Peeves.

Linguist Geoff Nunberg doesn't enjoy everything about the English language. There are phrases that get on his nerves and words that he prefers not to use. And Nunberg says he's not the first person to have linguistic pet peeves — nor will he be the last.


A Sensitive Subject: Harry Reid's Language On Race

Once word got out about Sen. Harry Reid's recently reported 2008 remarks about then-candidate Barack Obama's skin color and speech, just about everybody thought he needed to apologize — not least Reid himself. But people had different stories about why.


Geoffrey Nunberg: 'The I's Don't Have It'

Counting words has become a popular new device in assessing political speech. The number of first-person singular pronouns in a speech can turn a modest public figure into a pompous politician. Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg suggests that counting words isn't very revealing unless we consider their context as well.


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