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Etymology of Fulsome

The word fulsome has undergone some real semantic changes over the years. It used to mean “excessive, overly full” in a negative way, but it’s come to have positive connotations for some, who think it means “copious” or...

Intensive Purposes

For all intents and purposes, the phrase all intensive purposes is just plain wrong. It’s an example of what linguists call an eggcorn. This is part of a complete episode.

$10,000 and 1400 Pounds of Dictionaries

When I read this narrative about the making of the first edition of the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus by former coworker Erin McKean, I was reminded of something that happened. I was one of the book’s editors and worked with its...

Two Shades of Grey

You’ve noticed work seems to expand to fill the time given to complete it. But did you know there’s a term for that? Also this week, the New England exclamation “So don’t I!,” grey vs. gray, building storeys, being...

Slake Your Thirst

To slake your thirst is to quench your thirst. But some people have been switching it to slate your thirst or other variants. It’s a classic case of an eggcorn, or one of those words that people mishear, and then start pronouncing incorrectly;...

Podunk, America

Where is Podunk? Grant explains that a columnist in the 1800s used the name for his series called “Life in the Small Town of Podunk,” referring to a generic backwoods American town. This is part of a complete episode.

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