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Cold as Aggie Forti

Margo from Denton, Texas, says when the weather was really cold, her Kentucky-born grandmother would say it was cold as agga forti. The term aggie forti refers to something really strong, particularly a strong drink. That expression and the variants...

Stuff We All Get

Swag is not an acronym for Stuff We All Get. In fact, most acronymic “etymologies” are complete hogwash. Swag, commonly used to mean “free stuff,” goes back to the 1700’s and refers to the ill-gotten swag, or booty, of...

Flight Attendant Discourse

A caller from Burlington, Vermont, has observed a slight change in the language of flight attendants’ instructions, replacing your with that. Instead of saying “Put your coat in the overhead compartment,” the ones on the airline...

Ensure vs. Insure

What’s the difference between the words insure and ensure? To ensure means to make certain. Insure means to protect someone or something from risk, and should be used exclusively in a financial sense. This is part of a complete episode.

Bull in a China Shop

A clumsy person may be known as a bull in a china shop or a bull in a china closet. The former came into use first, in the early 1800s, but bull in china closet is more evocative. Plus, according to the MythBusters, a bull in a china shop is...

floorplanning

floorplanning  n.— «The move is intended to stimulate small business and consumer lending, which has dried up in the wake of the credit crisis. Most dealers finance their inventory—a process called floorplanning—through automakers or banks...