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Episode 1603

If Grandma Had Wheels

While compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, lexicographer James Murray exchanged hundreds of letters a week with authors, advisors, and volunteer researchers. A new collection online lets you eavesdrop on discussions about which words should be...

A Vowel Perforation Called the Diaeresis

Sidney in Boston, Massachusetts, is curious about the diaeresis, that pair of dots that occasionally appear over a vowel in words such as naïve and coöperate. In ancient Greek diairesis, meaning “division,” applied to those dots in...

Adynaton Origin and Meaning

The word adynaton, which refers to a jocular phrase that emphasizes the idea of impossibility, was adopted into English from Greek, where adynaton means “impossible,” a combination of a- meaning “not” and dynatos, which means...