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Polar Words

A conversation with a leading expert on polar bears has Martha thinking about several bear-related words, including the term arctic and the feminine name Ursula. This is part of a complete episode.

Garage-Sailing

The guy who may be the nation’s foremost garage sale expert called us from Crescent City, California, with a question that’s vital for anyone writing or thinking about garage sales: Do the verbs garage-saling or yard-saling refer to the...

You Want Vocal Fry With That?

Hellooooo, nurse! We have two recent brand-new episodes to share, plus some language news, along with a bit about what’s going on with us. First, on the show this past weekend we talked about eponyms, jo-jo potatoes, dog breed mashups, the...

A Roberta of Flax

We have collective nouns for animals, like “a gaggle of geese,” “a pride of lions,” and “an exaltation of larks.” So why not collective nouns for plants? How about a “greasing of palms,” or a...

Great Spellers

What do you call an expert speller? A “Words With Friends” enthusiast wants to know. Martha tells her that a great speller is called an orthographer or orthographist, from the Latin roots ortho- meaning “straight” or...

Typefaces in History

Pity the poor typeface designer, always seeing anachronisms in movies and television. Imagine how painful it must be watching a World War II movie only to see a document printed in Snell Roundhand Bold, a font invented in 1972. Here’s typeface...