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Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

A Better Word for “Deplaning”?

A flight attendant from Concord, North Carolina, is irritated by a word she must use often in her work: deplane, meaning “to leave an aircraft.” She knows this verb is effective and efficient, but she says that to her it seems inelegant...

Episode 1537

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

No Better Than She Ought to Be

If a lady is no better than she ought to be, her sexual morals may be in question. The saying, recently popularized by the BBC program Downton Abbey, is what’s known as a charientism, or a bit of sugar-coated snark. By the way, if you’d...

A Mnemonic of Forget-Me-Nots

Hi, all! Our most recent episode is a favorite archive edition: "A Roberta of Flax," with funny collective nouns for plants, plus the game "Telephone," the use of "whenever" with reference to a one-time event, and...