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Rank and File

Alex from Columbia, Missouri, wonders about rank and file, meaning “the members of the body of an organization as opposed to its leaders.” In 12th-century France, the words renc or ranc referred to a row of soldiers. The word file means...

Forward Pronunciation

Alex in Amarillo, Texas, says he often hears speakers dropping the sound of the first r in the word forward, sounding like foward or fuhward. It’s what linguists call dissimilation, where, when duplicate consonants are not far apart in a...

sniff

sniff  n.— «The final diagnosis ended up being “idiopathic bilateral lower extremity paresis”—a fancy way of saying both of his legs were weak, and we didn’t know why. We sent him to a nursing home where he could get some...

noise floor

noise floor  n.— «If you make your recording too soft, you will mix in too much of what is often referred to as the “noise floor,” the spectrum that all the other sounds inhabit—generally sounds you don’t want.» —“Podcasting...

reverse redlining

reverse redlining  n.— «In a practice called “reverse redlining,” the lenders placed borrowers in targeted minority communities into loans they could not afford, later forcing them to go into foreclosure.» —“Memphis...

leaky crop

leaky crop  n.— «Corn is what scientists call a leaky crop. When it’s fertilized, it cannot absorb one hundred percent of the nutrients we give it.» —“Chesapeake Bay Funds Added To Farm Bill” by Alex DeMetrick WJZ...