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The AP Stylebook just changed the meaning of 'global warming' with one amazing edit.

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The AP Stylebook is one of the go-to sources for the rules of American English.

Published annually by the nonprofit Associated Press, the AP Stylebook is often used by journalists and publishers to standardize things like grammar, punctuation, and abbreviations as well as appropriate word usage.

For example, if you're not sure whether "civil rights movement" should be capitalized or if it's OK to abbreviate "BLT" when the sandwich gets mentioned, the AP Stylebook has you covered.



A page from a previous edition of the AP Stylebook. (It's also why I'm forced to use "OK" and not "okay," grrrr.) Photo by George Kelly/Flickr.

The Stylebook gets updated each year to reflect the latest changes in language.

This year alone, they added more than 300 new or revised entries, ranging from amaretto to NCAA sports to the correct way to talk about suicide.

But there was one change in particular that really got our attention.

According to the new official style rules, people can no longer be "climate change deniers" or "climate change skeptics."

Here's how the AP described the reason for this change:

"Scientists who consider themselves real skeptics — who debunk mysticism, ESP and other pseudoscience, such as those who are part of the Center for Skeptical Inquiry — complain that non-scientists who reject mainstream climate science have usurped the phrase skeptic. They say they aren't skeptics because 'proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.'" — AP staff memo from Stylebook editors Sally Jacobsen, Dave Minthorn, and Paula Froke

You read that right — the willful refusal of "those who reject mainstream climate science" to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence in the world is giving actual skeptics a bad name.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Irony" is "a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected." This image is not ironic. Photo by Matt Brown/Flickr.

Instead, the new AP Stylebook recommends the use of "climate change doubters" or "those who reject mainstream climate science." They do not, however, forbid the use of other pejorative insults to describe the willful ignorance of this vocal minority.

They've also officially equated "climate change" and "global warming," which isn't the hugest deal but is at least enough to shut down the haters who say things like, "But I was cold this one time last year so climate change can't be real!"

But AP's language rules need to stay objective, so they made a change on the other side as well.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, "those who reject mainstream climate science" continue to insist that our dangerously changing climate is not actually changing or else that the rapidly melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels are totally no big deal and just something that happens sometimes.

You know. Just like it did with the dinosaurs.


Best case scenario: Our fossilized remains are discovered and displayed by the next dominant species on the planet in 65 million years. And that's reason enough for inaction? Let's think about that. Photo by Andrew McMillan.

Of course, it would be unfair if the AP were to consider only the perspective of people who accept the near-unanimous scientific consensus. They had to factor the feelings of "those who reject mainstream climate science" as well:

"Those who reject climate science say the phrase denier has the pejorative ring of Holocaust denier so The Associated Press prefers 'climate change doubter' or 'someone who rejects mainstream science.'"

(I might be biased, but I think that if you're more concerned about being associated with Holocaust deniers than you are with the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree that we are headed for certain doom, maybe you need to look at your life choices?)


Pot, meet Kettle. Photo by RexxS/Wikimedia Commons.

Basically the AP has officially and objectively updated our language to reflect what we already know: Climate change is real, and it is serious.

Language is the way that we communicate shared meaning, and it's always evolving. Simply put, if enough people agree on the meaning of the thing, then, well, that's what it means. (That's how "literally" can literally come to mean its own antonym or why we forget that even Shakespeare said "aks" instead of "ask.")

But words alone are not enough to undo the damage from our changing climate. You can do that by signing this petition ahead of the upcoming Paris climate talks — where all the world's leaders are coming together to solve the crisis.

And if that's not enough for "those who reject mainstream climate science," then I don't know what is.

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The word "jumbo" literally comes from an elephant.

The evolution of language is fascinating, and the etymology of specific words can be a fun little trip through human history as well as human creativity.

Many English words are derived from Greek and Latin, but other European languages make up a good chunk of our language as well. The roots of some words can surprise us, and so can the way certain words came to be. And in some cases, what we don't know can be just as surprising as what we do.

Enjoy diving into the history of 15 words we use every day.

1. Dog

Dog is often one of the first words babies learn to say, and it's one of the first kids learn to spell. But don't let its simplicity fool you. This word is truly a mystery.

The word "dog" comes from dogca, a very rarely used Old English word, but how we started using it as our everyday name for canines, no one knows. "Its origin remains one of the great mysteries of English etymology," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Even more interestingly, no one knows the origins of the Spanish word for "dog" ("perro"), nor do they know the origins of the Polish ("pies") or Serbo-Croatian ("pas") words for our canine friends, either. Who knew dogs were so enigmatic?

2. Nightmare

It's obvious where "night" comes from in "nightmare," but what about "mare"? Surely, were not referring to a female horse here.

Horse, no. But female, yes. Female goblin, to be precise. In Old English, mare means "incubus, nightmare, monster; witch, sorcerer." And "nightmare" started being used around 1300 to refer to "an evil female spirit afflicting men (or horses) in their sleep with a feeling of suffocation." Yikes. Thankfully, now it's just any old bad dream.

3. Jumbo

We've all seen animals named for words with certain meanings, but here we have the opposite. The word "jumbo" came from a large elephant who lived at the London Zoo. Zookeeper Anoshan Anathjeysari named him "Jumbe," the Swahili word for "chief." But his status as one of the largest African bush elephants in Europe in the 19th century caused his nickname, Jumbo, to become synonymous with enormousness.

muscular man exercising

Run, little mouse, run.

Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

4. Muscle

The Latin word musculus means "little mouse." As hilarious as it sounds, they thought the movement of muscles looked like little mice scurrying under the skin, hence the origin. Kinda ick to think about, but also logical, so here we are.

5. Quarantine

Ah, a word with which we are all familiar, thanks to COVID-19. But do we know what it really means?

If you understand roots, you may guess that "quar" might have something to do with the number four, and you'd be right. In Latin, quadraginta means a period of 40 days. Our usage of "quarantine" to mean isolation from others comes from the Venetian policy of ships coming into port from plague-stricken countries in the late 1300s to remain in port for 40 days before letting people off. The usage to mean any period of time in isolation began being used in the 1600s.

6. Mortgage

Most of us grow up not really understanding what a mortgage is until we buy our first house, but even then, most of us don't know what the word literally means. It comes from Old French, mort gaige, literally meaning "death pledge."

HAHAHAHAHA. Death pledge. Mortgage. That's funny.

However, it doesn't mean you're tied to the debt til you die, even if it feels like it. The death part means the deal dies either when you pay it off or when you become unable to pay. Doesn't really change the fact that it feels a bit like you're signing your life away when you buy a house, though.

ball of yarn

What does a ball of yarn have to do with "clue"?

Photo by Philip Estrada on Unsplash

7. Clue

Oddly enough, "clue" comes from a misspelling (or alternate spelling from before standardized spelling was a thing) of the word "clew," meaning a ball of yarn.

The word itself comes from German, but its usage points to the Greek myth in which Ariadne gives Theseus a ball (or clew) of yarn to help him escape the labyrinth. Now we use it to refer to anything that helps us solve a mystery.

8. Nice

The word "nice" is nice and simple, right? It's the most basic word we use for "pleasant," a definitively positive word. But this seemingly simple word has been through quite the trek in its etymology.

From the Latin nescius, meaning "ignorant, unaware," it was used to mean "timid" or"faint-hearted" before the year 1300. A couple hundred years later, it had morphed to "fussy, fastidious" or "dainty, delicate." In another 100 years, it changed to "precise, careful." Tack on another few hundred years and we're at "agreeable, delightful," and from there it was only short jaunt to "kind, thoughtful."

What a nice journey from insult to compliment.

9. Shampoo

I would have bet money that the word "shampoo" was French in origin, but nope. It's Hindi, coming from the term champo, and the original meaning was "to massage, rub and percuss the surface of (the body) to restore tone and vigor." It's only been used to refer specifically to lathering and washing out strands of hair or carpet since the mid 1800s.

10. Torpedo

Literally Latin for a stingray. As in the marine animal. That comes from the root word torpere, which means "be numb," since a ray's sting can numb you. It doesn't become the word for a propelled underwater explosive until the last couple hundred years.

11. Ambidextrous

We know that left-handedness was seen negatively throughout much of human history, but even the word that means "able to use both hands equally" has a right-handed bias baked into it. The medieval Latin ambidexter literally meansliterally means "right-handed on both sides."

Isn't English fun?