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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Pop Culture
1:03 pm
Thu June 11, 2015

What's A Thamakau? Spelling Bee Is More About Entertainment Than English

Nathan J. Marcisz of Marion, Ind., focuses intently as he spells a word during the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 1:37 pm

We English-speakers take a perverse pride in the orneriness of our spelling, which is one reason why the spelling bee has been a popular entertainment since the 19th century. It's fun watching schoolchildren getting difficult words right. It can be even more entertaining to watch literate adults getting them wrong.

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Commentary
1:31 pm
Mon April 27, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Mon April 27, 2015 5:22 pm

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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Digital Life
3:39 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

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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All Tech Considered
3:01 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 9:47 am

"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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All Tech Considered
3:46 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

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

Vertigo3d iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 4:20 pm

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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