Linguist David Crystal describes English as a "vacuum cleaner of a language." Speakers merrily swipe some words from other languages, adopt others because they're cool or sound classy, and simply make up other terms.
In his new book, he tells The Story of English in 100 Words, using a collection of words — classic ones like "tea" and new words like "app" — that explain how the the English language has evolved.
Crystal thinks every word has a story to tell, even the ones as commonplace as "and."
Writer Donna Britt's 26-year-old brother was killed by Indiana police officers decades ago. Amidst the news of Trayvon Martin's death, she is reminded of the unanswerable questions surrounding her brother's death. She talks about the challenges of coming to terms the violent death of a loved one.
At least 70 countries, including the U.S., pledged millions of dollars in aid to the Syrian opposition. U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has set a deadline of April 10 for compliance with the U.N. peace plan. Some analysts believe it's too late for peaceful negotiations.
Global Payments, a third-party processor of credit card payments for Visa, MasterCard and Discover, said late last night that the data breach made public last week may have risked about 1.5 million credit card numbers.
Originally published on Mon April 2, 2012 12:50 pm
"It's constitutional," President Obama declared this afternoon when asked about the 2010 health care overhaul legislation that was the subject of three days' worth of Supreme Court hearings last week.
He's confident a majority of the justices will agree, Obama added. Many Supreme Court watchers are less certain.
The president make those comments in response to a question that came up during a joint news conference at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
More delegates are up for grabs as the GOP primaries move to Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington D.C. Politicos are closely watching the Badger State, where Rick Santorum is hoping for a boost from rural voters, and Mitt Romney is looking for a decisive victory. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks with analysts Mary Kate Cary and Cynthia Tucker.
The morning TV air wars get serious again Tuesday with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's guest host slot on NBC's The Today Show — opposite former CBS Evening News' anchor Katie Couric's guest slot on ABC's Good Morning America.
In the lead-in to the faceoff, there was some fun on Today today.
During a phone call with Palin, host Matt Lauer wondered "what are you doing to prepare? Are you reading some newspapers?"
In most places in the U.S., if a parent is charged with abuse or neglect of a child and can't afford a lawyer, he's appointed one. That lawyer's job is to defend the parent and reunite the family if possible.
But faced with a budget shortfall, New Hampshire has taken the unusual step of eliminating that funding.
The court and state officials charged with enforcing the new policy now worry that the lack of representation is hurting parents and their children — and children's advocates are concerned that other states may eventually follow New Hampshire's lead.
For the health policy world, the Supreme Court's tough questioning of the individual mandate last week was a seismic event.
But in Hartford, Conn., the city sometimes called the epicenter of the insurance industry, David Cordani isn't quaking.
Cordani is the CEO of Cigna, the nation's fourth-largest health insurer. He says the insurance industry started changing itself before the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. And the changes will continue regardless of what happens at the high court.
Originally published on Mon April 2, 2012 10:35 am
"Mind is such an odd predicament for matter to get into," says the poet Diane Ackerman. "If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, dream and electric, how does it manage to contemplate itself? Worry about its soul? Do time and motion studies? Admire the shy hooves of a goat? Know that it will die?
Aziz Ansari is about to hit the road. The 29-year-old comedian and star of Parks and Recreation is embarking on a multicity comedy tour, where he'll be riffing on what he calls the "fears of adulthood."
The table saws in David Butler's (left) workshop are outfitted with prototypes of his "Whirlwind" safety brake system. He and his lifelong friend Robert Calhoun filed their first Whirlwind Tool Co. patent in 2009.
Credit Chris Arnold / NPR
David Butler designed his safety brakes so they could be easily installed on existing saws and machine tools. This prototype is installed on a Delta 15-inch scroll saw, a model that has been used for decades in schools.
When you think of cutting-edge technology, power tools don't generally come to mind. Take the table saw: Many woodworkers are using 30-year-old saws in their wood shops and, among the major tool companies, there hasn't been much innovation since those decades-old tools came out.
But more and more inventors are trying to make these saws safer — and David Butler is one of them. At his home in Cape Cod, Mass., Butler flips on the fluorescent lights in his basement turned wood shop.
House prices have crashed. Banks and businesses have failed. Jobs have been axed. People are struggling to make the mortgage.
The Republic of Ireland's 4.6 million people have suffered considerably since the financial crisis began four years ago, forcing their government to turn to the European Union and International Monetary Fund for a $90 billion bail-out.
The biggest female box-office star in Hollywood history, Doris Day started singing and dancing when she was a teenager, and made her first film when she was 24. After nearly 40 movies, she walked away from that part of her life in 1968, and started rescuing and caring for animals.
Mothers of new babies might be forgiven for turning to caffeine to get through those sleep-deprived months. And they might worry that drinking coffee interferes with the sleep of breast-fed babies — the Web is full of such questions. But a new study says it's not so.
Instead, researchers in Brazil found that the babies of heavy coffee drinkers were no more likely to wake up than were babies whose moms didn't have a serious espresso habit.
Crying and colic at 3 months old, as well as frequent night waking at 12 months, were not affected by a mom's caffeine intake.
"A Pakistani court on Monday convicted Osama bin Laden's three widows and two of his grown-up daughters of illegal residency, sentencing them to 45 days detention and ordering their deportation," Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reports.
An enumerator interviews a woman for the 1940 census. Veiled in secrecy for 72 years because of privacy protections, the 1940 U.S. census is the first historical federal decennial survey to be made available on the Internet initially rather than on microfilm.
Nylon stockings became all the rage. Black fedoras were the "pure quill" — meaning the real deal. Bing Crosby crooned Only Forever on the console. And Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American actor ever to take home an Oscar.
Ah, 1940. Three score and 12 years ago, America was in a very different place — economically and culturally.
But on April 2, 2012, when the National Archives releases detailed data from the 1940 census, we will get an even keener idea of how much — or how little — this nation has really changed in the past 72 years.
Over the weekend, The Orlando Sentinel reported that two experts it consulted believe the voice heard calling for help in the background during a 911 call to police is not that of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who says he acted in self defense when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla.
We have all felt the ethereal siren song of other universes — the thrilling suspicion that touching a certain ring may in fact suck you into a Wood Between the Worlds, or that if you walk just so between platforms nine and 10 at King's Cross Station, you might find yourself departing from platform nine and three-quarters. For some, the tingling sensation of magical lands fades after leaving childhood behind. But I still peer curiously into wardrobes, and thus here are three blazingly intelligent adult novels for the untamable Alice in all of us.
The rising cost of oil isn't just a hit to the family budget. Businesses are hurt, too. Few are more affected than firms like FedEx. It deploys nearly 700 planes and tens of thousands of trucks and vans every day to deliver packages around the world. And few business leaders are more focused on finding alternatives to petroleum-based fuels than FedEx CEO Fred Smith.
Shortly after Smith founded Federal Express, the 1973 Arab oil embargo almost killed it. The experience imprinted Smith with a keen interest in the price and availability of oil.
Tax Day 2012 is looming — and after we file our returns, many of us will try to figure out what to do with the seemingly innocuous but possibly crucial documents we use to prepare our returns. Filing electronically can make those records easier to manage. But what should we really keep, and for how long?
Most experts recommend holding on to financial records for three years after they're used in a tax return — that's the amount of time the IRS has to audit taxpayers.