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Number Part of Speech

Is a number a noun or an adjective? Even dictionary editors struggle with how to classify parts of speech. Like color, such words often lie along a spectrum, and asking at what point the number seven goes from a noun to an adjective is like asking...

Pie in the Sky Origin

We all know the moon’s made of green cheese, but what’s the deal with the pie in the sky? The idiom pie in the sky, referring to something that’s pleasant to imagine but unattainable, comes from an early 20th century song called...

Toilet vs. Commode

Why do some folks call the toilet a commode? At one point in history, the commode was a piece of furniture you’d put a chamberpot in. Today, commode is still a common term heard in the American South. Elsewhere, the term commode denotes a kind...

Voracious Reader

If someone calls you a voracious reader, would you be flattered or insulted? And is it better to be a voracious reader of nonfiction rather than novels? The word voracious, which shares a root with devour and carnivore, might connote a lack of...

Paralipsis

“I won’t even mention how beautiful she is, but you should really see her photo.” Rhetorical statements like this one, where the point is actually made by pretending to avoid it, is often called paralipsis or paraleipsis. It comes...

Me vs. I, Object vs. Subject

The usage of the word me vs. I will always be a point of debate. Grant and Martha contend that language works in the service of culture, and thus, there will always be informal settings where the words me and I are slung around interchangeably. Then...

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