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Town Names Ending in -ham

Why do some town names end in ham? Effingham, Illinois; Birmingham, Alabama; Gotham City, U.S.A. They all derive from the Old English ham meaning “home” or “homestead.” This is part of a complete episode.

Wet Behind the Ears

Why do we say that someone is inexperienced is “wet behind the ears”? The hosts tackle that question, and discuss whether Barack Obama misspoke during the 2008 presidential campaign when he used a similar expression, green behind the...

Like a Duck on a June Bug

Welcome to another newsletter from "A Way with Words"! In our latest episode, we talked about bird names, "like a duck on a June bug," overuse of the word "like," the expression of disbelief "Good night, nurse...

Unusual Ways to Learn English

If English isn’t your first language, there are lots of ways to learn it, such as memorizing Barack Obama’s speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention. Martha and Grant talk about some of the unusual ways foreigners are learning to speak...

Glom-a Obama Quiz

In honor of the 44th U.S. president, Quiz Guy Greg Pliska offers a word game “Glom-a Obama.” The object: Figure out a series of rhyming two-word phrases by guessing the word to be added to the name “Obama.” For example, if Mr...

Definition of Enormity

When Barack Obama intoned, “I do not underestimate the enormity of the task ahead,” some grammar sticklers recoiled. Pointing to the word’s roots, they insist that enormity means not “large,” but “out of the...

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