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Callow

The term callow goes back to Old English calu, meaning “bald.” The original sense of callow referred to young birds lacking feathers on their heads, then referred to a young man’s down cheek, and eventually came to mean...

The Great Recession

Should the Great Recession be talked and written about as a proper noun? Recessions tend to be vague in their scale and timelines, so it’s problematic to mention them as proper nouns. Perhaps the similarities in sound between Great Recession...

Favorite Letters of the Alphabet

Do you have a favorite letter? The sound or typeface varieties of a letter can really catch us. For more about the visual and emotional properties of various letters, check out Simon Garfield’s book about fonts, Just My Type. Grant also...

Brobdingnagian and Unabridged

Why do spelling bees use such strange words — often foreign words that almost nobody uses? Like cymotrichous, stromuhr, Laodicean, guerdon, serrefine, and Ursprache? We answered that question in last week’s episode — it’s what happens...

You Did It!

Happy new year and welcome to another A Way with Words newsletter! As you might have guessed by the subject line, you helped the show reach its fundraising goal of $25,000 — and you beat it! Thank you so much for your generosity and your vote of...

Bah, Humblebrag!

What’s your choice for the 2011 word of the year? Grant shares some of his picks. Speaking of picks, why do football commentators seem to love the term pick-six? Also, great quotations from writers, the meaning of such Briticisms as cheeky and...