word meaning

Evolving First Names

Tweet Here are the first names of the 18 students in my fall class at Montclair State University: Carolyn, Melina, Pamela, Miguel, Nardeen, Kanequa, Julieth, Leslie, Alaysia, Carla, Milena (two Melinas!), Russell, Charles, Iyana, Kejdi, Aya, Klavdiya, Usman. I suspect that finding out the naming rituals in all of the cultures involved would require a couple of weeks of study; the “Charles,” for example, is a Charles IV. Investigating the meanings of […]

Lexicography exercise

Tweet We often think of dictionaries as definitive in their definitions, without questioning their authority, yet there are many different kinds of dictionaries, and students should be encouraged to use them with discretion and sophistication. An example: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 5th ed. (WNCD) aims its definitions at the “college student and general reader,” while […]

Language, morality, and philosophy

Tweet Noam Chomsky writes in Language and Thought, that “some of our worst contemporary muddles are due to the general neglect of language as an instrument of thought.”  This holds true particularly in the area of moral and political thought. What is a “person?” Mississippi is about to vote on whether a zygote is a […]

September 11th, 9-11, 9/11 – Words from our worst day

Tweet We still are not sure how to refer to that awful day — is it “nine eleven” or “September 11th?” As a society, we’re still vacillating. In 2001, 9-11 (or equivalents) was the Word of the Year, according to the American Dialect Society. In 2002, it was Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). What do […]

What does “have” mean?

Tweet What does have mean?  Consider these sentences: I have seen him                                   I had a baby last week I have the flu                                       I have the answer I have a husband                                 Have fun In the first sentence, “I have seen him,” have is purely grammatical and has no independent meaning (see previous post, Concrete and Grammatical […]

Dictionary exercise

Tweet The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are relying on dictionaries to define the terms in their legal opinions.  Read about it here. A good exercise would be to give students the definitions of three words the Justices have looked up recently, and ask them to compare the definitions.  The exercise would be best […]