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Cark

Cark is a noun meaning “worry” or “trouble.” As a verb, cark means “to cause worry or distress,” as in to have carking doubts. This word derives from a Latin word for “burden,” which also produced...

Fail-Safe vs. Fail-Proof

A discussion on the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange about things that can still be useful even if they longer function properly, such as escalators and moving sidewalks, included several intriguing expressions involving partial failure...

That Smarts!

A listener in Abilene, Texas, wonders about the expression that smarts! The verb to smart, meaning to sting or cause sharp pain, goes back more than a thousand years. The adjective smart, meaning intelligent, evolved from that sense of something...

Worries of Failure Cause Flop Sweat

Someone who’s anxious about performing may break out in a flop sweat. The term comes from the theatre slang, where worries that one’s production is a flop may cause nervous perspiration. In the 1987 film Broadcast News, Albert...

Be There Directly

In much of the United States, the phrase I’ll be there directly means “I’m on my way right now.” But particularly in parts of the South, I’ll be there directly simply means “I’ll be there after a while...