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“How Are You?” is Sometimes More Than a Question

A native Dutch speaker who spent many years in Japan says he had to learn the hard way that when Americans greeted him with How are you?, they didn’t really want to know how he was. Such casual greetings that don’t require a factual or...

Linguistic Hedges and Conversational Softeners

Paul in Dryden, New York, says when he lived in Tennessee, he knew that when someone began a sentence with Bless his heart, that phrase would usually be followed by the word but, plus a criticism of that person. Now that he’s living in New...

Talking As Equals in the Workplace

Matt, a new college grad in Austin, Texas, wants guidance about what kinds of things are appropriate to share during conversations in the workplace. Sociolinguist Janet Holmes has extensively researched and written about this topic, including in...

Wet Brick

What the fox says may be a mystery, but we do know that dogs bark differently around the world. In China, for example, they say not bow-wow but wang wang.  Also, the story behind the British tradition of scrumping. It’s not a middle...

Ogle

How do you pronounce ogle? Is it oh-gle? Oogle? By far the best pronunciation is the first but older slang dictionaries do include the verb oogle. All of these words connote the idea of looking on with desire, often with an up-and-down glance. This...

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