Lexicon Valley

Here Come the Word Nerds! Introducing Slate’s Language Blog, Lexicon Valley.

Why do English speakers often begin sentences with a dangling, superfluous so? What makes the “historical present” such an effective storytelling tense? Is Bob Garfield a stone-cold misogynist because he finds “vocal fry” insufferable?

These are just a few of the questions we’ve tackled on the podcast Lexicon Valley over the past year and a half, and we’re deeply grateful to the many listeners who have tuned in. But many of you have written to request language-related content that can be consumed without headphones, which, alas, remain taboo in many workplaces (where shirking with the eyes is easier to do on the DL).

And so, until surgically implanted “in-ear” speakers (Exhibit A) are standard-issue, we bring you Lexicon Valley: The Blog. We’ve teamed up with the brilliant linguists at Language Log—including the University of Pennsylvania’s Mark Liberman, the University of Edinburgh’s Geoffrey Pullum, and Vocabulary.com’s Ben Zimmer—whose new and archival posts will be featured here along with content from other contributors.

Since we’re all language experts in our own minds, if not degreed ones, I expect strong opinions about much that appears here. That’s what the comments are for, and by all means weigh in, though I hope you’ll resist succumbing to toxic disinhibition. In other words, don’t be a jerk. For example, I’m no fan of the Oxford comma. I find it unsightly and unnecessary, and I don’t believe the “clarity” crowd. Confusion can erupt with or without it, which, by the way, is almost always cleared up by the context. But the copy-editing overlords here at Slate appear to be emotionally invested in over-punctuation. Clearly, they’re all a bunch of morons but I would never say that. See? Civility is so simple!

As for the podcast, Bob and I will be back sometime in October with a bunch of new episodes. Until then, keep shirking with your eyes.