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Users that often use this tag:
tabubilgirl (4)
sdis (2)
Ambrosia Voyeur (2)
Narrative Priorities (2)
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What's the 'significance' of the word bubonic in bubonic plague?

This is one entry on a vocabulary list that asks for a definition of the word or phrase and the 'significance' of the word or part of the phrase. This is part of a 15-year-old's summer homework, but no explanation is given of what the 'significance' of the word significance is. My take is that 'significance' is kind of an inherent effect or consequence of the word; for bubonic, I'd say the significance is civilization-changing death due to uncontrolled pest and population density. Any other ideas?
posted by Huck500 on Aug 6, 2014 - 14 answers

How did colonial Americans speak?

I am trying to write a story that takes place in 1660s Massachusetts. I have a great plot and characters, but the action stops when they open their mouths. I simply don't know how they spoke. How can I find examples of 17th century English as spoken by ordinary people? [more inside]
posted by Biblio on May 26, 2014 - 11 answers

What very obscure English words are actually very useful?

I'm not looking for obscure words that are just baroque synonyms for common English words, or highly specialised David Foster Wallacesque curiosities, but rather words that are actually quite functional for day-to-day use but for whatever reason are not widely known.
posted by dontjumplarry on May 16, 2014 - 99 answers

The OED is on the tip of my tongue

Like many people on this site, I read a lot and have a pretty large vocabulary. But, when I speak or write, I often feel like much of that vocabulary is hiding in a part of my brain that I can't get at. Please suggest tasks that will flex my active vocabulary-retrieval muscles. [more inside]
posted by zeri on Mar 24, 2014 - 18 answers

What is "turtle-billing"?

In the course of a dramatic reading of "Fanny Hill" last night I ran across the phrase "turtle-billing," but I cannot find a precise definition of the act. Can you? [more inside]
posted by BlackLeotardFront on Feb 16, 2014 - 4 answers

Is there a general term for phrases like "landline phone"?

I could swear that I have seen this on AskMe before, but I can't find it for the life of me. Is there a word for the situation in which something that used to be representable by a single word now needs two (or more) words? Like how "telephone" now sometimes has to be retroactively qualified as "landline phone" because of the advent of "mobile phones." "Analog watch" would be another example, I guess.
posted by slenderloris on Feb 13, 2014 - 19 answers

Discussing art -- structured vs unstructured?

Art and philosophy people -- I need your help figuring out how to talk about the difference between art that is highly constricted by form vs. art that is very open-ended -- sonnets as opposed to free verse, men's clothing as opposed to women's clothing, calligraphy as opposed to sketching. [more inside]
posted by jfwlucy on Jan 9, 2014 - 12 answers

Vocabulary buffs: What's the word for this?

What's a word that means you say things to make people believe your intent or mindset is different than it is in order to harm them later without them suspecting you? For example, you might mention in discussion how much stealing disgusts you so that they won't suspect you later when you steal from them. [more inside]
posted by Defenestrator on Nov 30, 2013 - 49 answers

It Wasn't a Tuffet

Is there a single, non-compound English word for this kind of university lecture hall desk (those bolted-down seats with the arm-rests masquerading as desktops)? [more inside]
posted by paperback version on Nov 25, 2013 - 8 answers

Thanksgiving-related vocabulary word needed! (for adults, not children)

I am required to bring a "word of the day" to my Toastmasters club's next meeting. This word should be an interesting and useful word that will expand everyone's command of the English language and ideally would be fun to use. Twist: I want it to be Thanksgiving or holiday season related if possible. My google-fu is failing me because I keep getting results meant for children's crossword puzzles ("pilgrim", "turkey", etc.). I'm looking for something more along the lines of "puritanical" or something like that. Can be historical, related to feelings or gratitude or even satirical of the holiday.
posted by halseyaa on Nov 25, 2013 - 17 answers

25 minute Spanish lesson

Tell me what topics would make you excited to learn a foreign language. [more inside]
posted by chainsofreedom on Nov 21, 2013 - 12 answers

What 20/21 century literature classics do you recommend reading for GRE?

Hi everyone. I am an international student considering the option of going to the US to do my graduate studies. I am currently studying for the GRE. As I am not a native English speaker (Portuguese), the verbal section is really difficult for me because of the vocabulary. As I got bored of studying vocab flashcards, I am know thinking of reading a book with a great diversity of words. What recent books do you recommend reading? (remember that I am completely unaware of the what the best english literature may be)
posted by tsuwal on Aug 31, 2013 - 16 answers

I tried to look this up myself, but I couldn't find the answer, so...

What is the origin of ending a sentence with a trailing "so..." ? Who is on record first using it? How did it spread? I am talking about the annoying unfinished sentence word: "We would have gone cycling, but I couldn't find my bike, so..." I am not talking about the legitimate adverb: "I love biking so!"
posted by michaelh on Aug 29, 2013 - 15 answers

Does a word for this exist?

Is there a word that means "sunrise or sunset?" [more inside]
posted by DevilsAdvocate on Jul 21, 2013 - 29 answers

Excel: Is it possible to sort by an arbitrary list?

I have a list of 625 English words, translations in a bunch of languages, and what-not in a giant excel file. We'll call that excel file "the Data." The Data is in alphabetical order. I also have a separate list of those same English words in a different order. Is there a way to sort the Data so that it's in the same order as my new, non-alphabetical list? [more inside]
posted by sdis on Jul 7, 2013 - 6 answers

Examples of background clues from vocabulary and/or usage?

When someone says head or latrine for bathroom its likely that they were in the military or around the military. A less common example,when someone says "avoid the near occasion" about something its likely that they are from a Roman Catholic background, I'd even say its use indicates a likelihood that they are or were a priest, seminarian, religious, in a kind of serious catholic family or school etc. Reckon is a common word and its being used once doesn't mean anything but when its use is pretty frequent it might be indicative of someone's having lived in the south east United States. When people say pop instead of soda or coke they likely are from somewhere roughly between Chicago and Denver, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Things like this interest me and I'm sure I know only a infinitesimal fraction of a percent of them. Do you have any like observations to share? [more inside]
posted by logonym on Jun 19, 2013 - 92 answers

Another

I feel like I've forgotten a word. Is there a verb that means "to introduce an impure portion into" or else "decrease the purity of" -- but which is not "corrupt" or "alloy"? If for example a stream of wastewater were to be joined into a freshwater river, that would be Xing the river. If an artist were to introduce crass commercial considerations into otherwise heartfelt art, that would be Xing the art. It could be that this word does not exist.
posted by shivohum on Jun 12, 2013 - 17 answers

Visual dictionary for children on the iPad?

I'm looking for an iPad app (Kindle or other ebooks are fine too if they can do this as I can get my hands on one for this) which is lots of big busy pictures with little words in them where you can press the picture and hear the word said - basically a speaking version of the Usbourne's First 1,000 words. All I can find after several hours searching are flashcards or spelling-type games or dictionaries where the words are arranged A-Z. I keep thinking this must exist as the iPad would be perfect for this, but I'm just not turning up anything!
posted by viggorlijah on May 24, 2013 - 2 answers

Help me to better express expressive expressions.

I read a lot, and my receptive vocabulary is excellent. However, no so much on the expressive side. I tend to repeat the same word over and over in my writing, and sometimes have difficulty picking appropriate word to succinctly capture a concept. So, what's a good and specific exercise(s) for increasing one's expressive vocabulary?
posted by pakoothefakoo on Apr 10, 2013 - 6 answers

How many words do we really use?

What is the average working vocabulary (and outliers) of various languages? Is the working vocabulary of English English different from American English or Australian English? and how does this compare with other languages?
posted by adamvasco on Apr 4, 2013 - 11 answers

Improve Your Vocabulary Tape From The 1980s

When I was a kid, my grandfather bought me an audiotape meant to improve my vocabulary: 25 Power Words, or something. It was pitched, I think, as a way to get ahead in business -- and read in a very serious, very radio-y voice. We used to play it on long car rides, endlessly, when I was in elementary school (in the early 80s). I'd really like to find a copy of the tape, but I can't remember its title. [more inside]
posted by buriedpaul on Apr 1, 2013 - 4 answers

Tips for learning advanced vocabulary and grammar in a foreign language?

What are your tips and techniques for learning advanced vocabulary and grammar in a foreign language? [more inside]
posted by kristi on Feb 26, 2013 - 15 answers

Help me learn advanced French food and restaurant vocabulary.

Please recommend books, websites, and other resources to learn more advanced French food and restaurant vocabulary, so that I can read menus and cookbooks, navigate restaurants, and describe food ("salty," "sweet," etc.). [more inside]
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston on Feb 16, 2013 - 17 answers

What does an elm look like?

I can't identify trees, bushes, shrubs, or flowers. How can I learn to do so on sight? [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Dec 28, 2012 - 22 answers

How to pick up vocabulary in a foreign language?

I need help in acquiring a lot of a vocabulary for a lot of languages. How can I best proceed and what should be my expectations and timetables be? [more inside]
posted by SollosQ on Dec 16, 2012 - 9 answers

Well, it's not below the Mendoza Line.

Is/Are there term(s) to describe the threshold at which a person can see their own breath outside ? [more inside]
posted by fizzix on Nov 13, 2012 - 4 answers

Everything about (first/bilingual) language acquisition

Tell me everything about teaching kids how to speak and read and write. [more inside]
posted by pracowity on Oct 16, 2012 - 19 answers

How can I improve my vocabular for Boggle-playing purposes?

How can I improve my vocabulary for Boggle-playing purposes? [more inside]
posted by biochemist on Sep 20, 2012 - 9 answers

I wish my accent was less overeducated, too

How to sound less overeducated? [more inside]
posted by curuinor on Sep 9, 2012 - 66 answers

What is the most effective way to improve your vocabulary (e.g. softare, book, method)?

What is the most effective way to increase your vocabulary (e.g. book, softare, method)?
posted by denverco on Sep 1, 2012 - 22 answers

頭が真っ白!

Bilinguals and polyglots of AskMefi please hope me. I understand a lot of words and grammar in Japanese but don't seem able to use them. How do you make the leap from "knowing" a word or grammar pattern to actually being able to use it in conversation? [more inside]
posted by ultrabuff on Jul 5, 2012 - 13 answers

Can you recommend good vocabulary building apps for iOS?

I'd like to find an iOS app for my mom- she wants a word-of-the-day or other vocabulary builder for English. She's fluent but it's her second language, and she'd like to have a stronger vocabulary. Any suggestions?
posted by BuddhaInABucket on Jun 13, 2012 - 7 answers

Kindle/Nook and learning Spanish

Kindle (or Nook) and Spanish books+Dictionary [more inside]
posted by pakora1 on May 31, 2012 - 8 answers

Help me find online resources for how to pronounce difficult words

I have terrible pronunciation. Can you direct me to dictionary-type sites that teach how to pronounce words using high-quality audio files? Merriam-Webster has the basics and is easy to use, but I am also looking for resources that cover more specialized vocabularies such as cooking terms, medical terms, technology terms, the names of important cultural figures, place names, and product names. Obscurity/difficulty level: stuff like sambal oelek, Yulia Tymoshenko, Mies van der Rohe, SUSE, Schenectady, Elidel, Saucony. [more inside]
posted by Susan PG on May 5, 2012 - 12 answers

Not Just About Forks!

Seeking English-language words that mean both a kitchen implement (knife, spoon, colander, pot…) and also a geomorphic or landscape feature (lake, river, mountain, bluff…) Sinks and cauldrons all qualify, but here my early ay-em ingenuity runs out!
posted by tabubilgirl on Apr 22, 2012 - 25 answers

Where can I find a very thorough, comprehensive, expansive list of personality traits?

Where can I find a very thorough, comprehensive, expansive list of personality traits? [more inside]
posted by lovableiago on Feb 29, 2012 - 1 answer

I do not think it means what you think it means.

What is some bizarre and amusing industry-specific jargon? [more inside]
posted by holterbarbour on Feb 16, 2012 - 53 answers

Synonym for satisfying?

Is there a single word for finding pleasure in well done formulaic stories not because they are doing something new or even being particularly clever, but because they hit the notes well, manage the tropes, and deliver what they promise? [more inside]
posted by The Whelk on Jan 22, 2012 - 34 answers

Is "roommate" really the only word for this?

There are three adults in my household -- my husband, myself, and our very close male friend. We think of ourselves as a family and it feels weird and a little cold to introduce each other as "roommates." So what word should we use? [more inside]
posted by Narrative Priorities on Jan 6, 2012 - 65 answers

ipso facto, girlfriend! (vocab word help!)

is there a word for 'a word that fits its own definition'? for example, sesquipedalian is a big word that by definition means "prone to using big words." is there a formal term for this type of thing?
posted by carlypennylane on Nov 29, 2011 - 5 answers

Help me find a word for "quick to perceive"

What are some words that mean "quick to perceive/discern," "sound judgment," or "keen-minded?" [more inside]
posted by melancholyplay on Nov 11, 2011 - 27 answers

Disqualified from an award for winning it too often?

What is it called when you're disqualified from an award for winning it too often? [more inside]
posted by Lorc on Aug 31, 2011 - 11 answers

Music for the voracious infovore?

I really like music that inspires me to jump up and...go read Wikipedia (or a dictionary, for that matter)! Bands that have produced the sort of thing I'm talking about here include Rasputina, Phideaux, and (to some extent) They Might Be Giants. Help me find more of this particular brand of awesome in the musical realm! Special bonus points if they can actually play their instruments well. [more inside]
posted by aecorwin on Aug 22, 2011 - 32 answers

The feds in a unitary state

In recent coverage of the Mark Duggan shooting and subsequent riots, I've seen a few instances of people referring to the police as "feds". Obviously in Britain there are no actual feds since there's no federal government, so what's the story here? [more inside]
posted by strangely stunted trees on Aug 7, 2011 - 7 answers

Old words with new meanings?

What are some words whose definitions have changed significantly in the last few centuries? [more inside]
posted by Shelf on Aug 7, 2011 - 58 answers

She's not my "ladyfriend".

Isn't it odd to call someone your "girlfriend" who you wouldn't call a "girl"? [more inside]
posted by ThisIsNotMe on Jul 15, 2011 - 110 answers

Baltimore to English dictionary?

What is Casualty Section as repeatedly referenced in the Wire? [more inside]
posted by Mitheral on Apr 11, 2011 - 7 answers

Movies and books to expand vocabulary

In what English movies or books would I most likely be exposed to new words? Any genre and time-period.
posted by keith0718 on Feb 3, 2011 - 34 answers

How do you say...

If you wanted to learn 100 words in a foreign (i.e. non-english) language, which words would you choose? [more inside]
posted by mnemonic on Dec 13, 2010 - 26 answers

English vocabulary words for a French speaker

I'm a native French speaker, and I'd like to to learn some new English words. However, many advanced English vocabulary books contain a lot of words which are exactly the same in French. Of course, some of them are false friends, and there's always something to learn. However, I'd like to know if there exists a vocabulary book specifically dedicated for French speakers. [more inside]
posted by Fillus on Dec 10, 2010 - 13 answers

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