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Infixing and Tmesis

Scott in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wonders if the words nother as in a whole nother and abso-bloomin-lutely are real words. Yes, they are! The construction a whole nother is an example of what linguists call tmesis, which involves the insertion of a...

Episode 1525

Niblings and Nieflings

How do actors bring Shakespeare’s lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of people and places at certain points. That technique is called billboarding. And: Anyone for an...

Pangram Contest

Engineer and language enthusiast Anu Garg runs a popular website, Wordsmith.org, which includes the A.Word.A.Day email, along with an anagram server, and other offerings for fellow word lovers. To celebrate the site’s 25th anniversary, Garg...

Episode 1524

Kite in a Phone Booth

Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. In New York City, the slang term brick means “cold,” and dumb brick means “really cold.” Plus: the East and Central African tradition...

Planful

Among academics, the word planful is used to describe someone methodical or skilled at planning. Whether this term catches on in the same way that the count nouns learnings has remains to be seen. This is part of a complete episode.

“Go West” Slang Origin

Liz from San Antonio, Texas, often sees the term going west in World War I-era literature and letters being used to refer to being killed in combat. The term go west as a euphemism for dying most likely has to do with the end of the day. J.R.R...