For some time now it has been obvious that our language is not up to the task of describing current events. Perhaps the most obvious and dispiriting example is the more or less ubiquitous use of the phrase "mass shooting" to refer to massacres such as those that have taken place recently in Nevada, Florida, and now Texas, where at least 10 people were killed on Friday morning at a high school near Houston.
When a euphemism suddenly appears and finds itself universally adopted, it is always worth asking what it is meant to conceal.
The earliest use of the phrase "mass [...]
Imagine suddenly, and uncontrollably, having a completely different accent. You've had a stroke, or surgery, or been in a traffic accident, and when you regain your ability to speak, you sound like you're from somewhere else. Perhaps you're from Arizona and now you sound like you're from England. Or you're from Australia and sound like you're from France. Or you're from England and you sound like you're from China or ... Italy? Poland?
Foreign accent syndrome (FAS for short) is a real thing, though it's very rare — fewer than 200 cases diagnosed since it was first described in 1907. It [...]
When President Trump tweeted about "being, like, really smart," many people took the "like" as evidence to the contrary. It's, like, a meaningless word that brainless people stuff into sentences! A fad among the younglings! As noted grammarian Robert Burchfield wrote, "Its use as an incoherent and prevalent filler" has become "an epidemic," but it is "scorned by standard speakers as a vulgarism of the first order."
Burchfield dated the start of the "like" epidemic to the middle of the 20th century. But we do like "like" sometimes. It may be weak tea compared to "love," but every YouTuber is gunning [...]