Geoff Nunberg says that, like a lot of the Britishisms peppering American speech these days, "spot on" falls somewhere in the blurry region between affectation and flash. Zdenek Ryzner/iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Even Americans Find Some Britishisms 'Spot On'

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President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate at the University of Denver on Oct. 3. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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One Debate, Two Very Different Conversations

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In 1961, the publication of Merriam-Webster's Third International Dictionary sparked an uproar with its inclusion of the word "ain't." Flickr User Greeblie hide caption

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When Words Were Worth Fighting Over

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Rep. Paul Ryan has made changes to social safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security — often called "entitlements" — a key part of his political agenda. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

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With Ryan's Ascent, A Few Thoughts On 'Entitlement'

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Taboo Revival: Talking Private Parts In Public Places

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The word "hopefully" has been used in thousands of NPR stories. Stephanie d'Otreppe/NPR hide caption

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The Word 'Hopefully' Is Here To Stay, Hopefully

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Slut: The Other Four Letter S-Word

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Geoff Nunberg says the magic of metonymy helped propel the word "occupy" into the global consciousness. Douglas Araujo de Moura /Occuprint hide caption

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'Occupy': Geoff Nunberg's 2011 Word Of The Year

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A message honoring Steve Jobs is scrawled on a blacked-out window at an Apple store in Seattle.

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Steve, Myself And i: The Big Story Of A Little Prefix

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In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx (above) and Friedrich Engels used the German word Klassenkampfen, which translates as "class struggles." Their critics rendered it as "class warfare."

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Unlike Most Marxist Jargon, 'Class Warfare' Persists

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No Language Legacy: Where's The Sept. 11 Vocab?

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What The Word 'Compromise' Really Means

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Bad Apple Proverbs: There's One In Every Bunch

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If It Ain't Broke ... The word "broke" comes from an old use of the word break, meaning "impoverished," says linguist Geoff Nunberg. "It suggests an abiding association between destitution and destruction." iStockphoto.com hide caption

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'We're Broke': Empty Bank Accounts, Empty Meaning?

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