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Sun-Related Words and Their Relations

During a full solar eclipse you can see the sun’s glowing outer atmosphere, called the corona. In Latin, the term corona means “crown” or “garland.” It’s the source of coronation, as well as the coronary arteries...

Irish Pennant

An ex-Marine reports that his commanding officer used to castigate his men for any stray threads hanging from their uniforms, calling those loose threads Irish pennants. That term is an ethnophaulism, or ethnic slur. Other examples of ethnopaulisms...

Etymology of Lieutenant

A listener in Montreal, Canada, asks: How do you pronounce lieutenant? The British say LEF-ten-ant, while Americans say LOO-ten-ant. In the United States, Noah Webster insisted on the latter because it hews more closely to the word’s...

Hinky

Hinky, or hincty, is a term going back to the 1920’s that has meant both “snobbish” and “haughty,” or, more commonly, suspicious. A police officer from Grove City, Pennsylvania, calls to say his older colleagues often...

Shiver Me Timbers

Careful what you criticize! Not long ago, some words that sound perfectly normal today were considered gauche and grating on the ear. If the complainers had had their way, we couldn’t say a word like pessimism or use contact as a verb! Also...

Cumshaw Artistry

We spoke earlier about cumshaw artists, or people who get things done by crafty stealing or bartering. Alan Johnson from Plano, Texas, told us a story from his Air Force days in Vietnam, when he and some comrades stole a bunch of plywood by sneaking...

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