Ben Zimmer is the executive producer of Vocabulary.com and
the Visual Thesaurus, language columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and
former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine.

The Wall Street Journal

Secrets of the Bright Orange ‘Black Box’ (Apr. 12, 2014)
The use of the phrase "black boxes" to describe flight recorders, as in Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, has its roots in World War II. (free via G+)

What Gwyneth Paltrow Meant by ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ (Apr. 5, 2014)
The mystified response to the actress’s phrase spurs an investigation leading back to Middle English and the ‘consciousness raising’ days of the 1970s.

Years of Lobbying Get ‘Yooper’ Into the Dictionary (Mar. 29, 2014)
How Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary agreed to accept a term for a resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after more than a decade of lobbying by one committed Yooper. (free via G+)

Read more language commentary in The Wall St. Journal here.

Slate / Lexicon Valley

Sorry, That’s Not an Emoticon in a 1648 Poem :( (Apr. 15, 2014)

An Olympic Snowboarder Said “Huck It,” and the BBC Freaked Out (Feb. 9, 2014)

Read more language commentary on Slate here.