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Articles on Words

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Communication between people would be very difficult, if not impossible, without discursive memory. Our memories allow us to understand each other or to experience irreconcilable differences. (Shutterstock)

Why some words hurt some people and not others

Because of context and history, some words and phrases carry a heavy burden with them. Their mere mention can bring back painful memories and problematic situations.
Talking politics increasingly seems like an exercise in talking past one another. GeorgePeters/Getty Images

Fox News viewers write about ‘BLM’ the same way CNN viewers write about ‘KKK’

Using machine learning to study over 85 million YouTube comments, a research team has, for the first time, identified linguistic differences among cable news viewers.
The coronavirus forced the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to break with tradition. Illustration by Anurag Papolu/The Conversation; dictionary photo by Spauln via Getty Images and model of COVID-19 by fpm/iStock via Getty Images

How COVID-19 is changing the English language

Updates to the Oxford English Dictionary provide a fascinating glimpse into how language changes in the face of rapid and unprecedented social and economic disruption.
Every known culture on Earth has special words for kids to call their parents. XiXinXing via Getty Images

Why do kids call their parents ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’?

One anthropologist found 1,072 similar words for 'mom' and 'dad' in the world's languages. It turns out a mix of biology, culture and encouragement from parents explains this phenomenon.
It’s a simple word with a strange history. Andrii Oleksiienko/shutterstock.com

Why do we say ‘OK’?

The word 'OK' has only been around for 180 years, but it's become the most spoken word on the planet.
Instead of overreacting to minor slights, it’s healthier to just say, ‘pyt.’ Ezume Images/Shutterstock.com

A Danish word the world needs to combat stress: Pyt

Pyt doesn't have an exact English translation, but there's a rich strain of psychological research devoted to its benefits in everyday life.
Edward Hopper’s ‘Office in a Small City’ (1953). Gandalf's Gallery

A history of loneliness

Although loneliness may seem timeless and universal, the word seems to have originated in the 16th century,
Everyone sees them all, but we don’t all give them the same distinct names. lazyllama/Shutterstock.com

Languages don’t all have the same number of terms for colors – scientists have a new theory why

People across the globe all see millions of distinct colors. But the terms we use to describe them vary across cultures. New cognitive science research suggests it's about what we want to communicate.

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