Geoff Nunberg

Geoff Nunberg is the linguist contributor on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

He teaches at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley and is the author of The Way We Talk Now, Going Nucular, Talking Right and The Years of Talking Dangerously. His most recent book is Ascent of the A-Word. His website is www.geoffreynunberg.com.

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12:31pm

Mon April 27, 2015
Commentary

From TED Talks To Taco Bell, Abuzz With Silicon Valley-Style 'Disruption'

Originally published on Mon April 27, 2015 4:22 pm

Martin Starr plays software designer Gilfoyle in the HBO comedy Silicon Valley. In the show's new season, Gilfoyle and his fellow techies attend a startup competition named "Disrupt."
Frank Masi HBO

HBO's Silicon Valley is back, with its pitch-perfect renderings of the culture and language of the tech world — like at the opening of the "Disrupt" startup competition run by the Tech Crunch website at the end of last season. "We're making the world a better place through scalable fault-tolerant distributed databases" — the show's writers didn't have to exercise their imagination much to come up with those little arias of geeky self-puffery, or with the name Disrupt, which, as it happens, is what the Tech Crunch conferences are actually called.

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2:39pm

Thu March 12, 2015
Digital Life

Don't You Dare Use 'Comprised Of' On Wikipedia: One Editor Will Take It Out

Bryan Henderson, who goes by Giraffedata, has written a 6,000-word essay on his Wikipedia user page explaining why he thinks "comprised of" is an egregious error.
iStock

I think of English usage as one of those subjects like cocktails or the British royal family. A lot of people take a passing interest in it but you never know who's going to turn out to be a true believer — the kind of person who complains about the grammar errors on restaurant menus. "Waiter, there's a split infinitive in my soup!"

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1:53pm

Wed December 10, 2014
All Tech Considered

Feeling Watched? 'God View' Is Geoff Nunberg's Word Of The Year

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 8:47 am

Geoffrey Nunberg says technology makes it seem as if we're always being watched, which is creepy.
Ralf Hirschberger AFP/Getty Images

"Infobesity," "lumbersexual," "phablet." As usual, the items that stand out as candidates for word of the year are like its biggest pop songs, catchy but ephemeral. But even a fleeting expression can sometimes encapsulate the zeitgeist. That's why I'm nominating "God view" for the honor.

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3:13pm

Wed October 8, 2014
Politics

The Language That Divides America: From Red And Blue To Percents

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 7:31 pm

Workers walk on a giant presidential election map of the U.S. made of ice in the skating rink at Rockefeller Center in 2004. The media still use "red" and "blue when talking about the electoral map, but not for a deep cultural divide.
Kathy Willens AP

The thing I found interesting about the "latte salute" foofaraw was that people were calling it that. Why did they feel the need to suggest that it was a latte that the president was holding when he made that perfunctory salute to the Marines as he left his helicopter last month? How can a latte still be a sign of effete self-indulgence when you can get one at any McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts these days? Isn't that whole red-blue business a little vieux chapeau?

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2:46pm

Tue July 1, 2014
All Tech Considered

Do Feelings Compute? If Not, The Turing Test Doesn't Mean Much

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 3:20 pm

Vertigo3d iStockphoto

To judge from some of the headlines, it was a very big deal. At an event held at the Royal Society in London, for the first time ever, a computer passed the Turing Test, which is widely taken as the benchmark for saying a machine is engaging in intelligent thought. But like the other much-hyped triumphs of artificial intelligence, this one wasn't quite what it appeared. Computers can do things that seem quintessentially human, but they usually take a different path to get there.

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