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Pricey Menu Items

The longer the description of an item on a menu, the more expensive it’ll likely be. In The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, Stanford University linguist Dan Jurafsky shows that with each extra letter in a menu description, the...

Hell’s Bells

The language of restaurant menus. Need a dictionary to get through a dinner menu? Research shows the longer the description of a particular dish, the more expensive it will be. Plus: What’s the best way to use a thesaurus? DON’T —...

Pumpkin Floater

Your telephone is for talking, right? Or is it? We’re guessing it’s been a while since you sat next to a telephone waiting for it to ring. In fact, maybe you’re one of those people who HATE to see that voicemail message light...

Foreign Word Origins

A Panama City, Florida, caller wants to know the origin of kowtow, as in “to agree in an excessively eager or annoying way.” Kowtow comes from a Chinese term that means “to bow extremely low out of respect,” from words that...

Fake English

Everyone knows you don’t start a sentence with but. But why? Also, how voice recognition technology is changing the way we think and write and what English sounds like to foreigners. Plus, where cockamamie comes from, oddly translated movie...

Chow Chow

The word chow, as in chow hall or chow down, goes back to the British presence in Chinese ports during the 1700s. Chow chow was a pidgin term referring to a mixed dish of various foods, namely whatever was on hand. The joke was that it often...

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