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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12:11pm

Tue November 12, 2013
Commentary

Was Rand Paul's Plagiarism Dishonest Or A Breach Of Good Form?

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 3:31 pm

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 3.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Even taken together, the charges didn't seem to amount to that big a deal — just a matter of quoting a few factual statements and a Wikipedia passage without attributing them. But as Rand Paul discovered, the word "plagiarism" can still rouse people to steaming indignation. Samuel Johnson called plagiarism the most reproachful of literary crimes, and the word itself began as the name of a real crime. In Roman law, a plagiarius was someone who abducted a child or a slave — it's from "plaga," the Latin word for a net or a snare.

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1:30pm

Thu September 12, 2013
Arts & Life

The Internet's 'Twerk' Effect Makes Dictionaries Less Complete

Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 4:45 pm

Evidently it was quite fortuitous. Just a couple of days after MTV's Video Music Awards, Oxford Dictionaries Online released its quarterly list of the new words it was adding. To the delight of the media, there was "twerk" at the top, which gave them still another occasion to link a story to Miley Cyrus' energetic high jinks.

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1:22pm

Mon August 5, 2013
Technology

Bracing For Google Glass: An In-Your-Face Technology

A conference attendee tries Google Glass during the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco in May.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

The likes of you and I can't buy Google Glass yet. It's available only to the select developers and opinion-makers who have been permitted to spring $1,500 for the privilege of having the first one on the block. But I've seen a few around my San Francisco neighborhood among the young techies who commute down to the Google and Facebook campuses in WiFi-equipped shuttle buses or who pedal downtown to Zynga and Twitter on their fixies.

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1:47pm

Fri June 21, 2013
Commentary

Calling It 'Metadata' Doesn't Make Surveillance Less Intrusive

Andrey Kuzmin iStockphoto.com

"This is just metadata. There is no content involved." That was how Sen. Dianne Feinstein defended the NSA's blanket surveillance of Americans' phone records and Internet activity. Before those revelations, not many people had heard of metadata, the term librarians and programmers use for the data that describes a particular document or record it's linked to.

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10:51am

Fri April 26, 2013
Commentary

'Horrific' And 'Surreal': The Words We Use To Bear Witness

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 2:33 pm

Visitors paid their respects at a makeshift memorial on Boylston Street on April 20, near the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Timothy A. Clary AFP/Getty Images

Mass shootings, bus crashes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks — we've gotten adept at talking about these things. Act of God or act of man, they're all horrific. At least that was the word you kept hearing from politicians and newscasters describing the Boston bombings and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas.

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