Picture of James Harbeck

James Harbeck

Contributing Writer

James Harbeck is a professional word taster and sentence sommelier (an editor trained in linguistics). He is the author of the blog Sesquiotica and the book Songs of Love and Grammar.

Is an emoji a word? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Face with tears of joy says it all.
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Is an emoji a word? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In the future, will the English language be full of accented characters?
Letters.
Analysis

In the future, will the English language be full of accented characters?

10 signature foods with borrowed names
Shrimp tempura.
Analysis

10 signature foods with borrowed names

The delicate art of using linguistics to identify an anonymous author
A thumbprint.
Analysis

The delicate art of using linguistics to identify an anonymous author

Dashes and hyphens: A comprehensive guide
A definition of dashes.
Analysis

Dashes and hyphens: A comprehensive guide

The new rules of CaPiTaLiZaTiOn
A man and a capital A.
Analysis

The new rules of CaPiTaLiZaTiOn

The curious case of people who can't stop speaking in foreign accents
A female mouth.
Analysis

The curious case of people who can't stop speaking in foreign accents

What's not to like about 'like'?
Like it?
Analysis

What's not to like about 'like'?

How the world's languages handle thorny gender issues
Gender is complicated in other countries, too.
Analysis

How the world's languages handle thorny gender issues

Almost every language has a word for 'Christmas.' Few reference Christ.
Baby Jesus.
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Almost every language has a word for 'Christmas.' Few reference Christ.

Why so strangely Yoda speaks?
'The Empire Strikes Back.'
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Why so strangely Yoda speaks?

How 'thoughts and prayers' became the stock phrase of tragedies
The White House holds a moment of silence on the South Lawn for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
Analysis

How 'thoughts and prayers' became the stock phrase of tragedies

11 band names that don't mean what you think they do
The Doobie Brothers in the 1970s.
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11 band names that don't mean what you think they do

A linguist's guide to HULK SMASH
The Incredible Hulk, 2003.
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A linguist's guide to HULK SMASH

Impress your fellow Americans with the patriotic etymologies of these July 4 words
An illustration of John Hancock at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
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Impress your fellow Americans with the patriotic etymologies of these July 4 words

A phonological description of beatbox noises
Beatboxing basics.
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A phonological description of beatbox noises

15 English words you probably didn't know came from Hebrew and Yiddish
Reading the Torah.
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15 English words you probably didn't know came from Hebrew and Yiddish

15 English words we stole from Arabic
Arabic script
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15 English words we stole from Arabic

Why it's difficult to tell a Canadian accent from a Californian one
Not so easy, eh?
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Why it's difficult to tell a Canadian accent from a Californian one

11 words whose meanings have completely changed over time
The surprising journeys of some everyday words.
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11 words whose meanings have completely changed over time

How do you pronounce 'in excelsis'?
A pronunciation guide.
Analysis

How do you pronounce 'in excelsis'?

How the Thanksgiving turkey was named after the country Turkey
A gaggle of turkeys
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How the Thanksgiving turkey was named after the country Turkey

What does normalize even mean?
What is the impact of normalizing someone who isn't quite normal?
Analysis

What does normalize even mean?

4 annoying sounds you need to stop making
mute sound illustration
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4 annoying sounds you need to stop making

Singular or plural? It's complicated.
The fascinating history of our language transformation.
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Singular or plural? It's complicated.

Was there ever an actual train that carried gravy?
All aboard?
Analysis

Was there ever an actual train that carried gravy?

'I know, right?': The anatomy of a wonderfully nonsensical phrase
Fallon Fey
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'I know, right?': The anatomy of a wonderfully nonsensical phrase

How Donald Trump hypnotized America
You are getting very angry.
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How Donald Trump hypnotized America

However: Everything you need to know about a commonly abused word
Next time, try but.
Analysis

However: Everything you need to know about a commonly abused word

This is how old languages add new words
How do you say "laptop" in Icelandic?
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This is how old languages add new words

How to identify Asian, African, and Middle Eastern alphabets at a glance
Japanese script (but, would you have known?).
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How to identify Asian, African, and Middle Eastern alphabets at a glance

How Donald Trump hypnotized America
You are getting very angry.
Analysis

How Donald Trump hypnotized America

How to identify any language at a glance
The key to identifying languages are in the distinctive letters and symbols.
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How to identify any language at a glance

10 commonly abused psychology words — and what they really mean
Definitions to some commonly misused words.
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10 commonly abused psychology words — and what they really mean

Almost every language has a word for 'Christmas.' Few reference Christ.
Is it possible to wish someone a merry Christmas without Christ?
Analysis

Almost every language has a word for 'Christmas.' Few reference Christ.

5 subtle sounds that English speakers have trouble catching
Listening hard
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5 subtle sounds that English speakers have trouble catching