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Scat Cat

The dilemma continues over how to spell dilemma! Grant and Martha try to suss out the backstory of why some people spell that word with an “n.” A lot of them, it seems, went to Catholic school. Maybe that’s a clue? Plus, the saying...

Charismatic Animals

After researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego discovered a seahorse-like creature called the ruby sea dragon, they described this brilliant red fish as a charismatic species. Many scientists use the word charismatic to...

Copacetic

Brand names, children’s games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes—but where did the word PEZ come from? The popular candy’s name is the product of wordplay involving...

William Zinsser Quote on Writing

Martha recalls that as an English major, she nearly memorized William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. He died this month at age 92, and she’ll remember this quote, among others: “Ultimately, the product any writer has to sell is not the...

Carter’s Little Liver Pills

The saying, “you’ve got more excuses than Carter’s got pills,” or “more money than Carter’s got pills,” refers to the very successful product known as Carter’s Little Liver Pills. They were heavily marketed...