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Not Only Gertrude, but Mabel, Too

Our conversation about women who use the nicknames Gertie or Gert as jokingly affectionate terms for each other, prompted a listener in Melbourne, Australia, to speculate that it’s a nod to Gertrude Lawrence, an English performer who rose to...

Chip on the Shoulder

If one has a chip on one’s shoulder, they’re spoiling for a fight. The phrase derives from the old practice of literally putting a chip of wood or other small object on one’s shoulder and daring an adversary to knock the chip off...

Grammar of Grawlixes

A musician from Youngstown, Ohio, is designing an album cover for his band’s latest release. He wants to use a grawlix, one of those strings of punctuation marks that substitute for profanity. “Beetle Bailey” cartoonist Mort Walker...

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