The Origins of "OK"

The phrase "OK" is everywhere, but where did it get its start? A new book tackles its history.

The Upside of Profanity

A new study from the psychiatry department in New York's Bellevue Hospital examines the use of offensive language by medical staff, patients, and families.

The Battle of the Translators: Man vs. Machine

There's still a need for human translators.

Roald Dahl and the Word Redunculus

A Freakonomics contest winner.

A Freakonomics Quiz on Redonkulous New Words

Where Levitt read a 30-year-old printing of this absurd word?

Monkeys Can Do It Too

A new study finds that monkeys can distinguish between "right" and "wrong" grammatical patterns.

How the Market Influences What Language You Read In

My Dutch friends tell me that they read foreign (non-Dutch) novels that are translated into English rather than into Dutch.

Their English is very good, but their Dutch is clearly better. So, I ask, why read in English?

What Happens If You Are Far-Sighted in Thailand?

The first sign of middle age has hit home with my wife: she can no longer read small print up close and has to resort to the “reach,” where she extends her arm as far as she can to read books. That same fate probably soon awaits me as well, which makes me glad I […]

The Empiricist-in-Chief

Following up on yesterday’s post about quantifying political speech, Dartmouth’s Michael Herron — who is a first-rate political scientist and data hound — points out that Obama was the first president to speak about “data” in his inaugural address, and only the second to mention “statistics.”

Quantifying the President's Speech

Doug Mills/The New York Times Our friends at have put together a really fun tool to help you mine their database of the full text of all State of the Union Addresses (even though this wasn’t technically such an address) as well as inaugurals. It’s a fun way of tracking which issues have occupied […]