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Episode 1603

If Grandma Had Wheels

While compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, lexicographer James Murray exchanged hundreds of letters a week with authors, advisors, and volunteer researchers. A new collection online lets you eavesdrop on discussions about which words should be...

Align Your Quiz Qi

Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s head-scratcher involves pairs of words that both start with the same letter, but not the same sound. For example, what do you call a seat with vertical spindles in the back, often used by the person in charge of a ship...

Jump Steady

To transmit information during wartime, various industries used to encode their messages letter by letter with an elaborate system–a primitive version of today’s digital encryption. Grant breaks down some of those secret codes, and...

Origin of Ushers

Why doesn’t an usher ush? The word goes all the way back to Latin os, meaning “mouth,” and its derivative ostium, meaning “door.” An usher was originally a servant in charge of letting people in and out of a door. This...

Etymology of Nanny Charges

A young woman who works as a nanny wants to know why the term charge is used to refer to the youngsters she cares for. Charge goes back to a Latin root meaning, “to carry,” and it essentially has to do with being responsible for...

Dean Of vs. Dean For

When it comes to job titles, the prepositions of and for can seem interchangeable and arbitrary, but they mean slightly different things. Of, as in a Dean of Student Conduct, is in charge of a particular area by themselves, whereas a Vice President...