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The Ugly Word

Sir Paul McCartney once wrote a song that included the phrase female pulchritude and luminosity. The word pulchritude means “beauty,” but why such an ugly-sounding word for such a lovely thing? Pulchritude derives from pulcher, a Latin...

Episode 1538

Little Shavers

The word hipster might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s when it referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best nightclubs and cool music. Speaking of music, a professional musician reports that it’s...

Is Scheming Negative or Neutral?

Bill, a substitute teacher in Fishers, Indiana, says that while visiting South Africa, he was surprised to hear an acquaintance use scheme to mean simply “a plan,” without no negative connotation whatsoever. In the UK and Commonwealth...

Episode 1532

Off the Turnip Truck

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham Bell suggested answering with ahoy! but Thomas Edison was partial to hello! A fascinating new book about...