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Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

A Vowel Perforation Called the Diaeresis

Sidney in Boston, Massachusetts, is curious about the diaeresis, that pair of dots that occasionally appear over a vowel in words such as naïve and coöperate. In ancient Greek diairesis, meaning “division,” applied to those dots in...

Words Where You Are

Is there a word or phrase that’s particular to your hometown? The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary would like to hear about it. In Cincinnati, for example, three-way refers to a kind of style of serving chili. You can contribute your...

Autocomplete Word Game

Quiz Guy John Chaneski, who also writes for Paid Off, a television game show starring Michael Torpey, offers a game-show style puzzle. For example, what are the top three most likely responses from Google’s autocomplete feature if you type in...

Origins of “Camp” and “Campy”

The noun camp and the adjective campy refer to movies, theater, or a style or an exaggerated manner of creative or personal expression that combines high and low elements of culture. These terms were first used in the underground gay community, and...