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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...

Invitation Etiquette

Addressing a wedding invitation to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith is pretty old-fashioned. It’s more than appropriate these days to address both a husband and wife by their respective names. But if you’re inviting someone who prefers the old...

Grant Barrett

Gone Pecan

How did the word gay go from meaning lighthearted to homosexual? Also, why are elementary schools sometimes called grammar schools? Plus, imeldific, gone pecan, random Scrabble words, and the difference between borrow and lend. And the etiquette of...

Phone Etiquette in Meetings

A new study finds that 20-somethings think it’s okay to text and read emails during meetings, and men are more likely than women to approve. This is part of a complete episode.

How British and American First Meetings Differ

Step into a traditional English pub, it’ll be a while before everyone knows your name. A long while, in fact. The rules of conversational engagement are different in the UK from what you’d find in a place like Cheers. Kate Fox’s...

Last Piece of Food

What do you call the last serving of food on a plate — the one everyone’s too embarrassed to reach for? That last piece has been variously known as the mannersbit or manners piece, a reference to the fact that it’s considered polite to...

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