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Episode 1535

Beside Myself

The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the vocabulary of the early 20th century? It may be jarring to hear the word swag, but it was already at...

Keep Your Eye on the Donut

Carol from Falmouth, Massachusetts, is curious about this bit of wisdom from her father: As you travel through life, whatever your goal, keep your eye on the doughnut, and not on the hole. The Mayflower Coffee Shop chain, based in New Jersey and New...

Etymology of Pessimism

We get lots of calls and emails that take a pessimistic look at the way language changes– which reminded us that the word pessimism itself, just 100 or so years ago, was derided by the curmudgeons of old. People thought the word pessimism was...

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...

Half Full of What?

If you see the trash can as half full, does that make you an optimist or a pessimist? Since it’s half full of garbage, as opposed to daisies or puppies, it’s questionable. On the other hand, in the tweeted words of Jill Morris:...