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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...

Fascinating Letters to an OED Lexicographer

Thanks to a project led by Professor Charlotte Brewer of Oxford University and research fellow Stephen Turton of Cambridge, you can now enjoy a trove of letters between James Augustus Henry Murray and his many correspondents during his work on what...

Overarching Sentiments

What sort of language is worthy of being inscribed in stone? A frieze on the James A. Farley Building in New York City is inscribed with Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their...

Put A Little Irish in Your English

The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary recently added several Irish English terms. One of them is segotia, which means “friend.” There’s an entry for this word, also spelled segocia, in Grant’s own book, The Official...

Taking a Possible Bath

Mary in Laramie, Wyoming, says her mother used to speak of taking a possible bath, meaning washing up using water from the sink instead of taking a bath or a shower. The idea is that you wash up as far as possible, then down as far as possible, and...

Box and Cox

To play Box and Cox means to participate in an arrangement in which you and someone else take turns occupying the same space at different times. This British expression derives from Box and Cox (Bookshop|Amazon), an 1847 farce by John Maddison...