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The Best Pronunciation of “Tinnitus”

Kay in Sparks, Nevada, wonders how to pronounce the term for the ringing in one’s ears known as tinnitus. Some people rhyme it with arthritis, while others stress the first syllable instead. Either is acceptable. Tinnitus derives from Latin...

Dirty Laundry (#episode 1520)

When you had sleepovers as a child, what did you call the makeshift beds you made on the floor? In some places, you call those bedclothes and blankets a pallet. This word comes from an old term for “straw.” And: What’s the story...

“Shingles” Comes from Latin

The painful condition called shingles takes its name from Latin cingulum, meaning belt, because the inflammation often appears as a belt-like band around the torso. The Latin root of cingulum, cingere, meaning to gird, is also the source of cinch, a...

Boustrophedon

Boustrophedonic writing goes from right to left, then left to right, then right to left again. This term derives from Greek word bous, meaning “ox,” also found in bucolic and bulimia (literally, ox hunger) and strophe, meaning turn, like...

Fever Blister vs. Cold Sore

Rebecca in Austin, Texas, wonders why the terms cold sore and fever blister describe pretty much the same thing. Also, why do we say we have a cold, but we have the flu? The word flu comes from the Italian word for influence, influenza, and is a...