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Dead Ringers and Spitten Images

Two familiar terms that have inspired lots of bogus etymologies are “dead ringer” and “spitting image.” “Dead ringer” probably comes from horse racing, where a ringer is a horse that may look like other horses in...

Linguistic Myths Surrounding Taphophobia

A Wellesley College student has been reading about the Victorian fear of being buried alive—also known as taphophobia—and the bizarre 19th-century burial practices associated with it. She’s heard that they gave rise to such expressions as dead...