John McMahon

The US Dollar’s Name Origin and Associated Common Slang

Money talks and nobody walks, and that is just the way it is. In a consumer-based society, money is at the top of our conversational pyramid. How often when hanging with friends, having dinner with family or chatting with colleagues at work does someone ask: “How much was that?” Even between strangers waiting for a(…)


Queens New York: The World’s Linguistic Melting Pot

In some cases, to find the last speaker of a dying language instead of traveling to remote outposts of civilization or border towns destroyed by war and crippling poverty, you can hop on the 7 train out of Grand Central Station to a stop in the borough of Queens. Heralded as the most culturally diverse(…)


Recounting the Ever-Changing Diversity of New York City

What do Peter Minuit, Pieter Minuit, Pierre Minuit, and Peter Minnewit all have in common? You guessed it! They’re all the same person, with spelling differences. Taking the first version, Peter Minuit, to be our variation, who here knows why he is famous? History may not have been everyone’s strongest suit (or maybe history plays(…)


Yiddish: New York’s Lost Language

I’ve heard it said that every language in the world is spoken in Queens, New York. While this may not be a proven fact, hang out on the streets of Jackson Heights or Woodside and you might get an inkling of how it could be true. I like to count languages when I’m on the(…)


Why Is Hard-Learned Language So Easily Forgotten?

Coming to the end of a two-month stay in my hometown of New York, away from my home in Thailand, I overheard three young Thai women on holiday walking along the West Side Promenade talking about the city. It was a normal enough discussion of the buildings, the river, the lack of public toilets, all(…)


The Top 9 Soon-To-Be Extinct Words of 2017

A few weeks ago, we wrote about words that have been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary for 2017 and what made those words worthy to be included into the official lexicon of our language. While looking at the new words, we also came across words that have been deleted in 2017, and the reasons why. As intriguing(…)


The Most Hated Words in English

Is there a word that prickles your skin, raises the short hairs on the back of your neck, or just in general makes you feel sick? Did you even know about this phenomenon? That a simple word with no political or hateful connotations can make normal person uncomfortable. Well, it’s a thing, and it seems(…)


Giving Life to Language: How New Words Are Created

Not yet halfway through the year and already Webster’s has added a 1,000 new words to their dictionary. Though the old man Noah Webster himself might have been stymied by words like humblebrag, photobomb and listicle, the lexicographers at Merriam-Webster are encouraging the unstoppable language revolution. It’s true that none of these words are necessarily(…)


Learning Myths Debunked

True or false: Metacognition (the thinking about thinking) is just as important for learning as raw intelligence? Learning should be spaced out over time? Right brain thinkers learn differently from left brain thinkers? Intelligence is fixed at birth? A good teacher can teach any subject? Any thoughts? Well, these are just a few of the(…)


But Is It Art?

How do you describe something that is beautiful? How about well made? What if it is out of the ordinary? Is the description automatically synonymous with ‘art’? As abstract (pun completely intended) as it may be, how can and should art be defined? Art, in form, theory, and construct is always subjective.With that in mind,(…)