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Why is Q Followed by U?

Quinn from Excelsior, Minnesota, is five years old — well, five and three-quarters, as she points out. She wonders why the letter Q is so often followed by U. In Old English, the alphabet didn’t include the letter Q. The word quick, for...

Xylyl Meaning and Origins

Olivia, a sixth-grader in Somerville, New Jersey, says she and her classmates were flummoxed by a word on their spelling-bee study list: xylyl. It’s a term from chemistry, referring to a group of atoms derived from a liquid called xylene. One...

Boo-Boo Boo-Hoo

Seven-year-old Everett from Tallahassee, Florida, wants to know why we refer to a scrape or other minor injury as a boo-boo. Such reduplication of words and syllables is common in baby talk used to soothe a child. Also, boo-boo sounds a little like...