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A Way with Words Blog

Canuper, a Cocktail or Stiff Drink

Pete in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wonders about the word canooper, which he’s heard used to refer to a type of alcoholic beverage. Also spelled kanuper, this word is rarely found outside Minnesota. Its origin is uncertain, although Red Fisher...

An Outfit with Four Wheels and a V8

Jack from Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, observes that in his part of the country, the word outfit can have any of several meanings. Buying a new outfit doesn’t necessarily mean “buying a new set of clothes.” It could well refer to...

Buying Gingerbread Means Buying Ballots

In parts of Appalachia, if you’re buying gingerbread, you may not literally be buying a baked good. In Our Appalachia (Bookshop|Amazon), an oral history of the region, editors Laurel Shackelford and Bill Weinberg describe an old political...

What a Hotsy-Totsy Tchotchke

The word tchotchke, pronounced CHOTCH-kee, means “knickknack” or “trinket.” Also spelled chotchkie or tsatske, this word was borrowed into English from Yiddish tshatshke, and is cognate with several words that mean...

Portmanteauverload Word Game

Quiz Guy John Chaneski pairs of words in which the last sound of the first word is the same as the first sound of the second word. You might call it a kind of “portmanteau-verload.” For example, what’s this harves John keeps...