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Etymology of Mince

What do we mean by the expression “not to mince words”? The New York Times’ Paul Krugman often uses this idiom meaning “to be straightforward and blunt.” The verb mince means “to make small,” and is a...

Chicken Scratches and Creaky Voice

Does your handwriting look like chicken scratches, calligraphy, or maybe something in between? Martha and Grant discuss the state of penmanship, the phenomenon linguists call creaky voice, euphemisms for going to the bathroom, and the New England...

Spend a Penny

You might have heard Brits say “I’m going to spend a penny” when they have to visit the loo. The hosts discuss the reason for this phrase, and other euphemisms for making a trip to the toilet, such as “I’m going to...

Miss Astor

An Indianapolis woman who grew up in the South says that when her slip was showing, her father used to say, “Who do you think you are, Miss Astor?” Martha shares other euphemisms for slips showing. If someone sidles up to you and says...

More on the Secret Languages of Families

Greetings, workers of the world! This is another newsletter from A Way with Words. This past weekend's show was re-run about the secret words of families. Give it a spin: We also talked about "knocked up," "the real...

shadow toll

shadow toll  n.— «When the toll roads were built, the TCA said no taxpayer money would be used to operate roads, Fitts said. But the term “shadow tolls” seems to be a euphemism for “taxpayer-supported toll road,” he...

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