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Was English Spelling Ever Standardized?

Was English spelling standardized before the advent of the printing press? No, but there were some significant periods in history where spelling became a little more fixed. Among them are the replacing of the Runic alphabet with the Roman alphabet...

Episode 1578

Today I Learned

Youngsters want to know: What’s the difference between barely and nearly, and what’s so clean about a whistle, anyway? Plus, adults recount some misunderstandings from when they were knee-high to a grasshopper. Kids do come up with some...

Homograph Quiz

Quiz Guy John Chaneski is puzzling over homographs, words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations. For example, what two words that are spelled the same are suggested by the following clue? An...

Semicolon Book

Science historian Cecelia Watson’s splendid new book Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark is her long love letter to an underappreciated punctuation mark. This is part of a complete episode.

Episode 1525

Niblings and Nieflings

How do actors bring Shakespeare’s lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of people and places at certain points. That technique is called billboarding. And: Anyone for an...

Spelling the Letters of the Alphabet

James from Trabuco Canyon, California, learns that there’s a proper way to spell the letters of the alphabet. The letter J is spelled jay and H is spelled aitch. His own name would be spelled out as jay aye em ee ess. The letter Y is spelled...