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Etymology of Mince

What do we mean by the expression “not to mince words”? The New York Times’ Paul Krugman often uses this idiom meaning “to be straightforward and blunt.” The verb mince means “to make small,” and is a...

Raining Cats and Dogs

Get out your umbrellas — it’s raining pitchforks and … bullfrogs? This week, it’s odd expressions that mean “a heavy downpour.” Also, holistic vs. wholistic, recurrence vs. reoccurrence, flash drive vs. thumb drive...

Harding’s Normalcy?

Did President Warren G. Harding coin the term normalcy in his famous Return to Normalcy speech? Turns out the word normalcy was already in use before Harding made it famous. Its synonym, normality, is generally the preferred term. Harding is also...

Internet Meme Lexicon

Ben Zimmer published a brilliant collection of internet memes from the past twenty years in a the journal American Speech. Memes like facepalming and the O, rly? owl have allowed us to communicate otherwise unwritable sentiments via the internet...

Him and I or Him and Me?

If someone offered you a croaker with an old man’s face, would you accept? You should! Croaker is a slang term for a hundred dollar bill. Did you ever wonder why we turn up the air conditioning to bring the temperature down? Plus, the tricky...

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