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Needs be the Devil Meet

Paul in Arlington, Texas, wonders about his grandmother’s response when he used to tell her he needed something. She’d say It needs be the devil meet. It’s likely a version of the older phrase He must needs go that the devil drives...

Episode 1517

Hair on Your Tongue

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. • The best writers create...

Maybe vs. Perhaps

Is there a difference between the adverbs maybe and perhaps? They’re basically synonyms, but of the two, perhaps tends to appear in language of a slightly more formal language register. The affected language in an old Taster’s Choice...

Episode 1512

Bottled Sunshine

If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term, adapted into English from Dutch, means “an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric.” And: What’s your relationship with the books on your...

Catch You on the Flip Side

Some countries have strict laws about naming babies. New Zealand authorities, for example, denied a request to name some twins Fish and Chips. • Halley’s Comet seen centuries before English astronomer Edmund Halley ever spotted it...