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Zombie Language Rules

Many so-called “rules” of grammar are actually just zombie rules. They’re ill-advised attempts by 17th-century grammarians to make English syntax fit the orderly rules of Latin. This is part of a complete episode.

Hot Dog, Cold Turkey

Why do we call a frankfurter a hot dog? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why do we say they quit cold turkey? This term’s roots may lie in the history of boxing. Plus, a...

Finding the Right Pronoun

As more transgender people are publicly recognized, what pronouns should we use to describe them? The best thing to do is find a polite way to ask how someone would like to be addressed. Epicene pronouns like they, ze, and others have had a hard...

Brown as a Berry

It used to be that you called any mixed-breed dog a mutt. But at today’s dog parks, you’re just as likely to run into schnugs, bassadors, and dalmadoodles. Also, if someone has a suntan, you might say he’s brown as a berry. But...

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