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Guess What

English is full of unusual terms, both old (eleemosynary, favonian) and new (flyaway, catio). Also, the Swahili term that means “sleep like a log,” the multiple meanings of the word joint, cowpies and horse biscuits, what it means to...

Winklehawks and Motherwit

Is that a winklehawk in your pants? A listener shares this word for those L-shaped rips in your trousers, from an old Dutch term for “a carpenter’s L-shaped tool.” And Grant has a new favorite term, motherwit, meaning “the...

Qi, Qat, and Za: Great Scrabble Words

Need a good Scrabble word? Grant shares some of his favorites. Also, why do we call those classic screwball films madcap comedies? And what does it mean to walk in a crocodile? Plus mondegreens, naval slang, learned vs learnt, and “No way...

Paraph on Old Signatures

What do you call that embellishment at the bottom of old signatures, like the hash-marked line beneath John Hancock’s name? It’s called a paraph, originally used as a distinct mark to protect against forgery. This is part of a complete...

Oh My Lady Gaga

It’s another newsletter from “A Way with Words.” Woot! In last weekend’s episode: Is it wrong to type two spaces after a period? We arm-wrestle over that, and talk about the odd language in “True Grit.” Also...

Zig-Zag and Shilly-Shally

Bavarian Chalet. Mushroom Basket. Moose Point. Who in the heck comes up with the names of paints, anyway? Martha and Grant ponder that mystery. They also explain why those annoying emails go by the name spam. And Grant explains the difference...

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