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Staring at One’s Own Navel

Eleanor from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is pondering navel-gazing after being surprised to learn that her adult son was unfamiliar with the term. Staring downward at one’s belly to induce a mystical trance has a long history: The...

Expressions from the Bible

Land of milk and honey, Judgment Day, and root of all evil are well-known phrases that first appeared in English translations of the Bible. There are several less obvious ones, though, including bottomless pit, meaning an abyss, which first appears...

Gadarene

The adjective gadarene describes something headlong or precipitate, such as a gadarene rush to pass legislation. It derives from a story in the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus visits the land of the Gadarenes and casts out demons from someone...

Spelling Sacrilegious

The word sacrilegious, describing something that violates the sacred, is tricky to spell. It’s easy to assume that it contains the word religious, but it doesn’t. Sacrilegious derives from sacrilegus, a Latin word that means a stealer of...