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‘Puter Principle

What do you call an upgrade gone wrong? Perhaps the ‘Puter Principle could be the software equivalent of the Peter Principle, which in business means that every employee in a hierarchy tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. This is...

Taking Umbrage

To take umbrage means to take offense or be annoyed at something. It comes from the Latin umbra, meaning “shadow,” as in umbrella. So to take umbrage is to sense something shady, or suspect that one has been slighted. This is part of a...


Is boughten a past tense form of to buy? Grant gives his blessing to its use in informal conversation, but when it comes to formal writing, the word you want is bought. This is part of a complete episode.


A native of Southern Pennsylvania has always used the term macadam in place of asphalt. Martha traces the word from an old gravel road to the modern day tarmac. This is part of a complete episode.

Latvian Vista

Martha has an example of a linguistic false friend: In Latvian, the word vista means “chicken.” This is part of a complete episode.

Detergent False Friend

Martha shares listener email about linguistic “false friends,” those perplexing words in other languages that look like English words, but mean something completely different. A case in point is the detergent popular in the Middle East...