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At Large

If a suspect is at large, he is moving about freely. The term at large, which comes to us via French from Latin, refers not to size but to distance. The phrase by and large, meaning “generally” or “on the whole,” derives from...

Why Do We Call it Air Conditioning?

Why do we use the term air conditioner to refer a machine for cooling air, when we use the word heater to describe a mechanism for heating air? The term air conditioning was borrowed from the textile industry, where it referred to filtering and...

Turn Up The AC

Does turning up the A.C. make a room cooler or warmer? A listener grapples with multiple meanings of the word “up.” Martha suggests saying, “Turn up the air conditioning,” not “turn up the air conditioner,” just...


Rihanna’s hit “Umbrella” may not have had the same ring if she’d referred to being “under my bumbershoot.” Nonetheless, bumbershoot, bumberell, brolly, and bumbersol, among others, are all