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Episode 1517

Hair on Your Tongue

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. • The best writers create...

Episode 1510

Cootie Shot

Perfect sentences and slang that tickles your mind! A new book of writing advice says a good sentence “imposes a logic on the world’s weirdness” and pares away options for meaning, word by word. • Your musician friend may refer to...

Asking for an Axing 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...

Episode 1499

Truth and Beauty

Malamute, kayak, and parka are just some of the words that have found their way into English from the language of indigenous people in northern climes. • In the 1970s, some scientists argued that two quarks should be called truth and beauty. • The...

Episode 1612

Fair Dinkum

A magnificent new book celebrates the richness and diversity of 450 years of written and spoken English in what is now the United States. It’s called The People’s Tongue, and it’s a sumptuous collection of essays, letters, poems...