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Why is Q Followed by U?

Quinn from Excelsior, Minnesota, is five years old — well, five and three-quarters, as she points out. She wonders why the letter Q is so often followed by U. In Old English, the alphabet didn’t include the letter Q. The word quick, for...

An Electrifying Beowulf

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley is a thrilling rendition of the centuries-old poem. (Bookshop|Amazon) Headley translates the poem using modern vocabulary and even internet slang, with results that are, as one reviewer put it...

Gaffle, Meaning “to Snag” or “to Grab”

Camden from Juneau, Alaska, uses the term gaffle to mean “snag,” as in to gaffle a Coke from the fridge. In his 1872 work A Dictionary of Etymology (Bookshop|Amazon), philologist Hensleigh Wedgwood notes that in a variety of languages...

Never Saying Goodbye

Kristin in San Clemente, California, wonders why actors in old movies often hang up the phone without saying goodbye. It’s not just old movies! In fact, you can watch supercuts of lots of modern movies where the same thing happens. Although...

Recommended Book: Greek to Me

Martha recommends Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen, a deeply personal, exuberant account of falling in love with both ancient and modern Greek by Mary Norris, former copy editor for The New Yorker. Norris shares several intriguing modern...

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