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Pronouncing “Aegis”

A voicemail from a Hawaii listener leads to a discussion of the correct pronunciation for Aegis, a naval combat system. Is it EE-jiss or AY-jiss? In Greek myth, an aegis was a protective shield, and today, to be under the aegis means to be...

Moon Palace (episode #1552)

What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry — some of which is collected in the anthology England: Poems from a School. Also, new language among...

Griph

A griph is an obsolete term for puzzle or enigma. This word’s etymology is a puzzle itself, although it appears to trace back to Ancient Greek griphos, meaning “fishing basket.” This is part of a complete episode.

Staring at One’s Own Navel

Eleanor from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is pondering navel-gazing after being surprised to learn that her adult son was unfamiliar with the term. Staring downward at one’s belly to induce a mystical trance has a long history: The...

Cabin Fever (episode #1547)

The adjectives canine and feline refer to dogs and cats. But how does English address other groups of animals? Plus, cabin fever has been around much longer than the current pandemic. That restless, antsy, stir-crazy feeling goes back to the days...

Bovine, Pavonine, and Other Animal Adjectives

Lisa calls from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, to ask about adjectives involving various kinds of animals. She knows that pavonine describes something having to do with peacocks, bovine involves cows, anserine refers to geese, and lupine has to do with...

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