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Book Recommendations

More book recommendations: For a smart, in-depth look at language change and usage controversies, Martha suggests Talk on the Wild Side: Why Language Can’t Be Tamed by Lane Greene. Grant says his 11-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed all of the...

Library Marvels

Pulitzer-winning historian Barbara Tuchman has observed that her single most formative educational experience was exploring Harvard’s Widener Library. She captured the feelings of many library lovers when she added that her own daughter...

Origin of Gringo

A sixth-grade teacher in San Antonio, Texas, is skeptical about a story that gringo derives from a song lyric. He’s right. The most likely source of this word is the Spanish word for “Greek,” griego, a term applied to foreigners...

Flight Attendant Discourse

A caller from Burlington, Vermont, has observed a slight change in the language of flight attendants’ instructions, replacing your with that. Instead of saying “Put your coat in the overhead compartment,” the ones on the airline...

Plastic Bags

What do you call plastic shopping bags that litter the landscape? Some know them as witches’ britches or witches’ knickers. Others prefer urban tumbleweeds. In the film American Beauty, Ricky Fitts famously called them one the most...

chitting

chitting  n.— «Then sprout the potatoes before you plant them. This time-honored process, known as “chitting,” gives them a head start and often increases your eventual yield.» —“How to Spur On Early Spuds” by...