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Yay vs. Yea

Jill in Indianapolis, Indiana, wonders how to spell the one-syllable cheer that starts with Y. Is it yay or yea? Since the 1930s, yay has been used as a little celebratory word. The word yea is much older and used in formal texts to mean...

Silhouette is an Eponym

The shadow portrait called a silhouette takes its name from Etienne de Silhouette, a French official whose short-lived term under Louis XV was characterized by extremely unpopular austerity measures. This is part of a complete episode.

2017 Words of the Year

Grant reviews notable words and phrases from 2017. One is path of totality, meaning the part of the earth completely covered in shadow when the moon blocks the sun. Another is milkshake duck, which arose from a tweet by Australian cartoonist Ben...

Sun-Related Words and Their Relations

During a full solar eclipse you can see the sun’s glowing outer atmosphere, called the corona. In Latin, the term corona means “crown” or “garland.” It’s the source of coronation, as well as the coronary arteries...

Easy Similes

Here are some easy similes: easy as winking or easy as breathing. If you prefer a tough one, try as difficult to grasp as a shadow. This is part of a complete episode.

Taking Umbrage

To take umbrage means to take offense or be annoyed at something. It comes from the Latin umbra, meaning “shadow,” as in umbrella. So to take umbrage is to sense something shady, or suspect that one has been slighted. This is part of a...