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So Early of Late

Here’s a confusing little ditty that actually makes sense while pointing out some of the oddities of English syntax: How come you are so early of late? You used to be behind before, but now you’re first at last. This is part of a complete...

Episode 1578

Today I Learned

Youngsters want to know: What’s the difference between barely and nearly, and what’s so clean about a whistle, anyway? Plus, adults recount some misunderstandings from when they were knee-high to a grasshopper. Kids do come up with some...

An Eke Name, Nickname

The verb to eke, as in to eke out a living or eke out a win, derives from Old English eaca, meaning “addition” or “supplement.” The expression an eke name, or literally “an additional name” was later altered by...

Episode 1553

Play It by Ear

How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she was from another country, not only because of how she spoke, but also how she looked...

Perceptual Dialectology

When Liz from Laramie, Wyoming, was hiking the Appalachian Trail, some fellow hikers and locals assumed from her accent that she grew up outside the United States. The assumptions made by people she met probably had more to do with the context...