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Around the Web: Back to School, Language, and Linguistics

Happy Friday, and happy September! I hope you’re all off to a good start this month, especially those of you starting school or sending others to school. I know it can be a bit of a hectic time for a lot of people, so I encourage you all to sit back, relax, and enjoy some interesting posts from around the web.

Reading While in School

In keeping with the first week back to school, All Lit Up addressed “beating the back to school reading blues” in their literary advice column. If you struggle to read for fun amid assignments and homework, you might want to check it out.

A person eclipsed by a pile of books

New Words

The Merriam Webster editors have added a bunch of words to the dictionary. Many, like “haptics” and “airplane mode,” reflect technology use. Others, like “bingeable,” “fav” and “rando” reflect modern slang. But these words aren’t necessarily new. For example, the portmanteau “hangry” has been used since 1956 according to Mental Floss.


Since we’re on the subject of word use, let’s talk about “milk.” Back in July, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb argued that labelling non-dairy beverages like soy milk and almond milk is misleading and potentially dangerous. Of course, that stance may be influenced by the dairy industry.

In any case, the Smithsonian Magazine looked into the history of the word “milk” and found a long history of the term being used of plant-based beverages. Word nerds and food nerds alike might enjoy their research.

A pitcher of milk next to a glass filled halfway.

On Forensic Linguistics

A recent NY Times opinion piece from an anonymous source within the White House has been getting a lot of attention. Among the discussions it has sparked is one on the identity of the writer. Some think word use might hold clues. And it might, but forensic linguistics isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. In light of the buzz around the op-ed, editor James Harbeck has shared his knowledge of using linguistics to identify anonymous authors.

That’s it this week, folks. What have you been reading? Share links in the comments.

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