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Aliens Abducted Me — But Refuse to Pay My Overdue Book Fees

Welcome to another newsletter from "A Way with Words," where the hosts are the English teachers you wish you had in grade school. No tardies ever!

Let's start with the minicasts this week. Special on sale just for you! Bargain at the price of "free." Remember, this is online-only content. If you want to get it every week automatically, you can add the program to your podcast reader: iTunes, Zune, iPodder, whatever, using the links on the sidebar.

Why do we say someone is "on the wagon" when they abstain from drinking alcohol?


Where do we get the expression "great googly moogly!"?


How can the word "friend" possibly describe both the people you went to school with *and* the people to whom you are connected through Facebook and MySpace?


We also have a couple of recent reruns of full shows that you might have missed:

Decline of the subjunctive, some web sites we like, "lurve," swarthy, contranyms, enantiodromia, and more:


Dog-fooding, soap operas, tump over, "heighth," reticent vs. reluctant, and more:


From our inbox:

Excuses for not returning library books, including alien abduction.


Barbara Boxer says don’t call her "m'am," call her "Senator."


Ten words you will hear in Panama, but may not find in your dictionary, including chiva, dale, corredor, and diablo rojo.


Why are people bothered by "gone missing"?


"Nerdview is the (sometimes absurdly inappropriate) use of an insider’s perspective and language in a context where messages are being addressed to a wider public. The symptoms are both perspectival (signs of seeing things as the factory or office or authorities would instead of from the standpoint of the public) and linguistic (using in-house jargon that the public might not even understand)."


Finally, get a gander at our new sponsor below. Super-duper, as Grant says. 🙂

Enjoy your summer, northern hemisphere!

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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Further reading

Funny Papers (episode #1601)

There are word nerds, and then there’s the woman who set up a folding chair on sidewalks throughout the country, cheerfully dispensing tips...

Go Bananas (episode #1600)

A caller wonders if she’s being hypersensitive about the way her boss addresses her in emails. Can the use of an employee’s first name...

A House Without a Door

A.J. Jacobs’ book The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life...

Mal Comune Mezzo Gaudio

Anthony in Tallahassee, Florida, shares a favorite Italian saying, Mal comune mezzo gaudio, similar in meaning to the English proverb Troubles shared...