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Mark Twain’s Writing Advice

Writing advice from Mark Twain, who was not a fan of adjectives. In The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, he says, “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.” He also wrote a letter with clever, useful advice that still holds true for the...

Off Like a Dirty Shirt

“We’re off like a dirty shirt” indicates the speaker is “leaving right away” or “commencing immediately.” Similar phrases include “off like a prom dress” and “off like a bride’s...

Root, Little pig, or Die

A St. Petersburg, Florida, listener says when she used to ask her mother what was for dinner, her mom’s answer was often “root, little pig, or die,” meaning “You’ll have to fend for yourself.” The more common...

Down to the Lick Log

If you’re “down to the lick log,” you’re close to the end of negotiations, or nearing some kind of decision. This expression is associated with cattle ranching, a salt lick being a place where the herd congregates. The 19th...

Pronouncing “Colin”

Pity all the fellows named Colin whose name is often mispronounced to rhyme with the punctuation mark (or the body part). General Colin Powell’s rise to public prominence in the 1980’s apparently prompted many people to adopt his unusual...

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