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Does it Hurt When Someone “Aks” You a Question?

It's time again for a newsletter from A Way with Words, public radio's program about words, language, and how we use them.

This past weekend we plundered the Australian National Dictionary, which is now available in full online, by sharing some Australianisms with the rest of the anglophone world. We also talked about the correct pural form of "moose," why people pronounce "ask" as "aks," the original meaning of "three sheets to the wind," and more.



We've also posted Martha's online-only ruminations on the fellow who read the entirety of the Oxford English Dictionary:


Here's a puzzle put to us by Allen of Appleton, Wisconsin. What do the following words have in common?

assess, banana, dresser, grammar, potato, revive, uneven, voodoo

The answer is at the end of this newsletter.

In our forums, an article about condescending language used toward senior citizens has set off a lively conversation.


In that discussion, Garry let it be known that he dislikes being spoken to as if he's the representative of all older Americans.

"'What do seniors think?' Why are you asking me? I’m an individual, I have my own thoughts, I don’t represent seniors and I don’t know what 'seniors' think. Yes, in fact, I do know what seniors think. They think everything. They have their own opinions and some even differ from other seniors."

Barbara Wallraff, the language columnist for "The Atlantic" who is known for her "word court" and "word fugitives," has started blogging at the Atlantic's web site:


Check out her starter list of phrases she hopes to never read or hear again, including "heartbeat away," "hockey mom," and "Wall St. vs. Main Street." The commenters chime in with a bunch more.


This story from January of this year has newly caught our attention. The subtitle describes it well: "As more deaf children are given the chance to hear, the eloquent system of signing is under attack."


This Thursday October 16 is the unofficial "Dictionary Day," celebrated on the anniversary of the birth of American lexicographer Noah Webster. ReadWriteThink has details:


Finally, here's the answer to the question above. If you take the first letter off the words, what is left for each is a palindrome. Neat, eh? Thanks, Allen, for the stumper.

Wishing you a very excellent Dictionary Day, and sincerely yours,

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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