Lael Ewy

Language commentator

Lael Ewy is a co-founder and editor of EastWesterly Review, a journal of literary satire at www.postmodernvillage.com and a writer whose work has appeared in such venues as Denver Quarterly, New Orleans Review, and has been anthologized in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh.

He provided commentary for the Wichita City Paper and journalism for Naked City.

He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of General Studies from Wichita State. Lael supports his writing and reading habits as a lecturer in English at WSU and as a peer educator at WSU's Center for Community Support and Research.

He runs an unaccredited Volvo hospice and is the current caretaker of a family heirloom, a 1965 Ford Mustang.

For fun he wrestles philosophy and literary theory.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

OnWords: Jargon Is Sometimes Necessary, Sometimes Annoying

Credit Gavin Llewellyn / flickr Creative Commons

Even if we can agree that jargon is absolutely necessary, we still can't help but be annoyed by it.

Every profession has jargon: specialties and sub-specialties are shot-through with special terms like “endoplasmic reticulum” or “moment of inertia” particular to them.

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Commentary
11:42 am
Tue May 7, 2013

OnWords: The Real Cost Of Austerity

Credit Alex Proimos / Wikimedia Commons

When we say something is austere, we evoke everything from an image of monastic poverty to the stark beauty of Modernist design. Because of this, “austerity” as a fiscal policy brings with it the suggestion of a deliberate and disciplined approach to a nation's economy.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

OnWords: Do You Have A Sense Of Entitlement?

Calling Social Security an entitlement program implies that those who receive the benefits do not deserve them. - Lael Ewy

The recent history of the word “entitlement” shows how a word’s connotation can take over its existence and taint everything it touches.

As opposed to its denotation, or dictionary definition, a word’s connotation is about the associations we have with a word. In the case of the word entitlement, it’s almost all negative.

The phrase “sense of entitlement” is at fault for this negative connotation.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

OnWords: That's So Meta

Andy Warhol presented pop culture as fine art, turning meta-art into an act of meta-art appreciation.
Credit _rockinfree / flickr Creative Commons

Formerly a prefix, “meta” has now taken on a life of its own, indicating works that are self-consciously self-referential. Ben Zimmer, writing in the Boston Globe in 2012, notes examples in the tech field going as far back as the 1970s.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

OnWords: The Contradiction Of Myths

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
Credit RottenTomatoes.com

We use the word “myth” in at least two almost contradictory ways. Most commonly, we use myth to mean falsehood, a hoax without the intention to deceive.

This is the myth sites like snopes.com and shows like Mythbusters serve to dispel. It is also a product of the Age of Enlightenment, when a seemingly rational universe called not for myth but for measurement.

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Commentary
12:17 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

OnWords: Functions Of Lying

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The most powerful lies aren’t the day-to-day, so-called white lies--that we’re ”fine” or that we genuinely care if complete strangers “have a good one.” These are, in fact, sometimes important parts of being polite.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

OnWords: Ideology, Love It Or Hate It?

Credit Alyson_H / flickr Creative Commons

The conflicted and often contradictory ways Americans use the word “ideology” reveals the conflicted and often contradictory ways we view ourselves.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

OnWords: Disorder Is Often Quite Orderly

"Brain Art"
Credit Betty Lee/Ars Electronica / flickr

The word “disorder” gets thrown around a lot in diagnostic circles, but it rarely accurately describes what's going on.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

OnWords: Momentum

“Momentum” is a word that we don’t usually think of as having a technical origin, even though we hear it used a lot by reporters during election season. A typical use would be something like “Senator Belfry’s campaign seems to have gained momentum following his recent speech to the Bloom County Chamber of Commerce.” There seems to be nothing technical about that.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

OnWords: Proper English

What we consider correct or proper English has long been bound up in class distinctions. Prior to the advent of public education, this was much more obvious than it is now. Proper English defined itself as the English used by proper people. “Real” English was the English of aristocrats, thus the phrase “The Queen's English,” which is still with us today.

But even in the supposedly classless or at least socially mobile U.S., we tend to attribute correctness to the social “winners”: educated, urban, northerners, preferably those from “old money.”

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