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Newsletter: Charismatic megafauna and other delights

Howdy! Ever hear questions that are really veiled criticism, or apologies that are actually excuses? That, and more, in our latest episode: language for resolving personal conflict, in like Flynn, gradoo, Irish pennants, champing, and a silly rule...

Proper Noun Possessives

There’s no definite rule for putting the apostrophe “s” after names like Liz or Alex when talking about Liz’s wedding or Alex’s school, but we know for certain that most people say, and write out, the possessive...

Capitalization in Formal Addresses

There’s no hard-set rule about whether to capitalize the phrase To Whom It May Concern, though it may also be worth figuring out who you’re addressing, and writing to them instead. This is part of a complete episode.

New Spelling Bee Rules

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, long beloved for its youngsters stammering out words like appoggiatura, is about to change this year, when they’re also forced to define words like appoggiatura. Officials added two rounds of computerized...

Rule of Thumb Origin

Where does rule of thumb come from? The idiom referring to a practical measure based on experience was never actually a law, though it does pop up in legal opinions suggesting that it’d be okay to let a man beat his wife if the stick was less...

Cough Etiquette

When somebody sneezes, you say “bless you” or “gesundheit,” but what about when someone coughs? Grant believes that if anything, the cougher ought to say “excuse me.” A commenter on Paul Davidson’s blog sets...

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