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Pronouncing Innovative

A university professor in Baltimore, Maryland, catches himself pronouncing the very same word in different ways depending on the context in which he’s speaking. For him, it occurs with the word innovative, which U.S. and U.K. speakers...

Perceptual Dialectology

When Liz from Laramie, Wyoming, was hiking the Appalachian Trail, some fellow hikers and locals assumed from her accent that she grew up outside the United States. The assumptions made by people she met probably had more to do with the context...

Lady vs. Woman

When is it appropriate to refer to someone as a lady? Is woman a better word to use? Is it ever appropriate to refer to adult females as girls? It all depends on context — who’s doing the talking and who’s doing the listening. This is...

Fitting Salutations

When writing a business letter, what’s a modern salutation that doesn’t sound as stuffy as “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam”? “To Whom It May Concern,” perhaps? The answer depends on the context and the...

Etymology of Fulsome

The word fulsome has undergone some real semantic changes over the years. It used to mean “excessive, overly full” in a negative way, but it’s come to have positive connotations for some, who think it means “copious” or...

Please Find Attached

To some, the phrase please find attached might sound like musty old language for the e-mail age. It’s always smart to be formal when the context is all business, but there are other phrases that convey the same meaning, such as I’ve...