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Burn Bag

The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 collection of contemporary slang records clever terms for everything from a bald head to the act of sidling through a crowd. Plus, how to remember the difference...

Crusticles and Fenderbergs

A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks with family members in Tagalog, he feels more soft-spoken, kind, and respectful. Research shows that...

All Verklempt

Of all the letters in the alphabet, which two or three are your favorites? If your short list includes one or more of your initials, that’s no accident. Psychological research shows we’re drawn to the letters in our name. • If you doubt...

Opaque vs. Translucent

A girl in Omaha, Nebraska, has a dispute with her father about the meaning of the words opaque and translucent. Opaque describes something that blocks light completely. Something translucent lets some light pass through. This is part of a complete...

Hell for Leather

Victorian slang and a modern controversy over language and gender. In the early 1900’s, a door-knocker wasn’t just what visitors used to announce their arrival, it was a type of beard with a similar shape. And in the 21st century: Is it...

Light Bulbs Mean Ideas

In comic strips, a bright idea is symbolized by a light bulb over a character’s head. This association between an incandescent bulb and inspiration was popularized in the early 20th century by the cartoon character Felix the Cat, but the...