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Why Are Some Competitions “Heats”?

Why do we use the word heat to denote a preliminary qualifying race? Hundreds of years ago, a single instance of heating something such as a piece of metal over a fire for metalworking was called a heat. Later that term was applied to “a round...

Chocolate Gravy

Say you have an acquaintance you always see at the dog park or the playground. But one night, you run into them at the movies, and for a moment, it’s confusing. Is there a word for that disorienting sense of someone or something being out of...

Bottle Room and Shred

In this week’s slang quiz, a member of the National Puzzlers’ League from Somerville, Massachusetts, tries to guess the meaning of bottle room and shred, the latter as used in the context of snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing. This...

yngling

yngling  n.— «A mystery to anyone without an interest in sailing before those Games, the boat drew headlines after the success of the trio—whose sporting prowess was augmented by good looks—and suddenly there was great interest in the...

bute

bute  n.— «The biggest problem confronting the industry is its addiction to performance-enhancing drugs. In the early 1960s, phenylbutazone—bute in racetrack parlance—seemed like a miraculous antidote to lameness in tired horses...

flying K

flying K  n.— «This is skiing’s equivalent of drag racing and, unlike in slalom, there are no gates or turns. Speed skiers just point the ski tips straight down a hill that is so steep it is almost freefall. Also known as the “flying...