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Bet Bet Bet

Anna in Bellingham, Washington, is puzzled by her younger roommates’ use of the expression bet to “sure,” “okay,” “yes,” “cool.” This slang has been around for at least 30 years and is sometimes...

Prophylactic

Anna from Alden, Michigan, recalls as a child looking up the word prophylactic in the dictionary. It goes back to the Greek word phylax, which means “guard.” To guard against tooth decay, you can get dental prophylaxis, also known as...

Softening Imperatives with Maybe

When someone says maybe, are they suggesting an option, or merely being polite? A caller from Anna, Texas, met a Canadian who used the word maybe to soften his imperatives. The same effect is often achieved with conditional phrases: “Would you...

digi-cammies

digi-cammies  n.— «The miniseries even got right the mismatched Marine uniforms—the corps in 2003 was in the process of transitioning from the old desert camouflage uniform, which Marines shared with the rest of the military, to the new...

cannibalizing

cannibalizing  n.— «More worryingly, the conglomerate is continuing its use of a business practice known as “cannibalising,” whereby new stores are opened in close proximity to existing branches. The intention of this is that...

powwow bunny

powwow bunny  n.— «A self-proclaimed owner of the “gift of gab,” Simpson talks while she works—about the dreamcatchers she’s making for her Native friends serving in Afghanistan, about how, despite her fondness for powwows, she...

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