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Email Enamel

The French word for “enamel” is émail, with an acute accent on the e. To avoid confusion, the French use courriel or simply le mail to denote those electronic missives. This is part of a complete episode.

“To Wing It” Origins

The expression to wing it, meaning to perform by improvising or with little preparation, comes from the world of 19th-century theater, where it denoted the work of understudies who stepped onstage and received prompting from the wings of the stage...

Wearing a Commode on Your Head

During the reign of France’s Louis XIV, you could wear a commode on your head. Commode referred to a wire frame worn on the head to support an elaborate headdress. This is part of a complete episode.

Episode 1508

Take Tea for the Fever

Silence comes in many forms. Writer Paul Goodman says there is, for example, the noisy silence of “resentment and self-recrimination,” and the helpful, participatory silence of actively listening to someone speak. • The strange story...

Antic Antique, Grotesque Grotto

Judith in Newbury Park, California, shares a funny story about how she used to mispronounce the word grotesque with three syllables. This term, meaning strange or unnatural or absurdly exaggerated, goes back to Italian grottesca, having to do with...

Pants on Fire

A highly anticipated children’s book and the epic history behind a familiar vegetable: fans of illustrator Maurice Sendak eagerly await publication of a newly discovered manuscript by the late author. And speaking of children’s...