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A Way with Words Blog

My Little Snicklefritz

Allie in Decatur, Alabama, says her mother referred to an impish child as a schnickelfritz. This term for a “young rascal” is often used affectionately, and spelled any of several ways, including snicklefritz, snickelfritz, and...

Mr. Darcy, What an Irresistible Scent!

A pheromone in the urine of male mice is called darcin, named for Mr. Darcy, the man Elizabeth Bennet finds irresistible in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Bookshop|Amazon). Manatees use their sensitive lips to oripulate their environment...

Episode 1587

Herd of Turtles

Some college students are using the word loyalty as a synonym for monogamy. Are the meanings of these words now shifting? Plus, a biologist discovers a new species of bat, then names it after a poet he admires. Also, warm memories of how a childhood...

Episode 1603

If Grandma Had Wheels

While compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, lexicographer James Murray exchanged hundreds of letters a week with authors, advisors, and volunteer researchers. A new collection online lets you eavesdrop on discussions about which words should be...