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Fiddlesticks

Dawn in Evansville, Indiana, wonders why we dismiss something as nonsense by exclaiming Fiddlesticks! The term arose in the 17th century, most likely because the bow for a fiddle is light, thin, and insubstantial, or in other words...

Origin and Meaning of “Jawn”

When Audrey was growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the late 1990s, it seemed that everyone around her used the word jawn as an all-purpose substitute for other words, as in I took my jawn to the jawn and we had a bunch of jawns...

Is Scheming Negative or Neutral?

Bill, a substitute teacher in Fishers, Indiana, says that while visiting South Africa, he was surprised to hear an acquaintance use scheme to mean simply “a plan,” without no negative connotation whatsoever. In the UK and Commonwealth...

A Certain Kind of Person

What’s the deal with the use of person, as in “I’m a dog person” or “she’s a cat person”? The word person used this way functions as a substitute for the Greek-derived suffix -phile, meaning “lover...

Ask vs. Question

Is it okay to use the word ask as a noun, as in “What’s our ask going to be?” Or should we substitute the word question or request? Actually, the noun ask has handy applications in the world of business and fundraising, where it...

Origin of “Hang a Roscoe”

A caller from Los Angeles, California, wonders why we say “hang a Roscoe” for “turn right” when giving directions. This phrase, as well as “hang a Louie,” meaning “turn left,” go back at least as far...

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