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Stentorian Origin

The adjective stentorian, meaning “extremely loud,” comes from the name of brazen-voiced Stentor, a Greek herald in The Iliad, whose voice was said to be as powerful as that of 50 men. The noun and verb mentor come from The Odyssey. In...

Changing Meanings of Gay

How did the word gay come to mean both “lighthearted” and “homosexual”? In the late 1800s, the term gaycat was used in hobo culture to refer to an inexperienced hobo who might take on an older mentor for help, often another...

Different Terms for Mentee

What’s the best term for someone who’s being mentored? A woman in a mentoring program at church thinks the word mentee sounds like “manatee.” She’s hoping for an alternative. This is part of a complete episode.

old head

old head  n.— «Donnie excused himself. An emerald-green Oldsmobile driven by a man in his 20s pulled up to the corner. Donnie slinked into the back seat. “That’s his old head,” said one of the boys, using street slang for...

cupping

cupping  n.— «Terry Sullivan, a certified grader, sits at a round cupping table that rotates with the push of his hand. As each cup of coffee passes his nose, he takes a spoon from the bottom to the top of the cup. This brings out the...