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Cutthroat Compounds

Scarecrow and pickpocket are compound words that name things and people by describing what they do. Such nouns were especially popular centuries ago, when quake-breech meant a coward, a saddle-goose was a fool, a scrape-gut was a violinist, and...

Why Do Some People Get Bios in Dictionaries?

A listener in Albany, New York, wonders who decides which historical personages deserve mention a dictionary, and how editors decide which of those people merit a photo or illustration? Grant explains the process by which lexicographers handle these...

Encyclopedia Britannica Spines

Now that the Encyclopedia Britannica is going to an online-only format, one of many things we’ll miss is the accidental poetry on the books’ spines. In the age of endless digital information, volumes like Accounting-Architecture and...