Paul in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has long been mystified by the title commander in chief. Why, he wonders, isn’t it commander and chief? The title commander in chief is a vestige of French military titles, specifically the construction en chef, which denotes the top officer of a group of similar officers. The same construction appears in the title editor in chief, which is the top editor of a group of similar editors. The French term, in turn, goes back to Latin caput, or “head,” and is a relative of capital. This is part of a complete episode.
- One of our favorite callers : Adorable six-year-old Aiya! 12/13/2019: ... [more]
- Electrifying! - a Special Minicast from Martha 12/12/2019: Hey, podcast listener! Martha here with a special minicast of A Way with Words. Today I want to tell you a story — and make... [more]
- Bug in Your Ear (episode #1537) 12/09/2019: Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not... [more]
- The Black Dog (episode #1536) 11/25/2019: Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse... [more]
- Beside Myself (episode #1535) 11/04/2019: The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes... [more]