Jose Carillo's Forum


This new section features links to interesting, instructive, or thought-provoking readings about the English language. The selections could be anywhere from light and humorous to serious and scholarly, and they range widely from the reading, writing, listening, and speaking disciplines to the teaching and learning of English.

Exploring those science-driven words that help define our future

Oh, surely you must already know what the words “blog,” “crowdsourcing,” and “in vitro” mean and how they came into being, but what about “qubit,” “microbiome,” and “unparticle”? You might have come across them in your readings lately, but do you know precisely what they mean?

In Virtual Words: Language on the Edge of Science and Technology (Oxford University Press, 192 pages), Jonathon Keats, novelist and author of Wired Magazine’s monthly “Jargon Watch” column, makes a delightful exploration of how such new words spring out from advances in modern technology and quickly insinuate themselves—or somehow fail to do so—into the English lexicon. The book, launched in the United States this November, consists of 28 essays that each makes an illuminating yet engaging survey of one such new word, giving its definition, origin, context, and significance.

Virtual Words

Keats says that these technologically driven words help define modern life. “We tend to think of prophecy as the stuff of superstition,” he explains. “Yet just as people can influence the future with their predictions, words occasionally anticipate the reality they come to reflect.”

Read Jonathon Keats’ “Five words shaping our future” in the Washington Post now!

Read “Exopolitics: Foreign Affairs with Alien Races,” an excerpt from Jonathon Keats’ Virtual Words, now!

Read Jonathon Keats’ guest post, “English, Improved,” in The New York Times now!

Jonathon Keats is a novelist, essayist, and conceptual artist. The author of the novels The Pathology of Lies (Warner, 1999) and Lighter Than Vanity (Eksmo, 2006), he writes the “Jargon Watch” column for Wired Magazine and has covered science, technology and language, as well as literature and the arts for the Washington Post, Popular Science, Scientific American, and

In “The Idiots’ Guide to Publishing,” an article in in the November 10, 2010 issue of The New York Times, Lela Moore writes about the couple Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson, who founded Idiots’Books, an independent press right in their their own barn in Maryland. Both graphic designers, Swanson writes and Behr illustrates, and together they distribute their snide, satirical works through a bimonthly subscription service. Says Swanson of their joint enterprise: “Our policy is to say yes to almost everything. I’m fascinated to see where this goes, since we’ve never submitted anything to publishers or solicited them. We just sit here and send our books out. That’s a part of the experiment I’m enjoying, to see how far you can get without doing anything.”

Read Lela Moore’s “The Idiots’ Guide to Publishing” in The New York Times now!

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