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Walkie Talkie (episode #1541)

One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear — and one of the most poignant — isn’t in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The...

Loanwords with Altered Meanings

John in Brattleboro, Vermont, is pondering words and phrases that change their meaning when they move from one language to another. For example, in Germany the English phrase public viewing doesn’t have to do with a wake, but a live sporting...

Strawberry Moon (episode #1522)

We asked for your thoughts about whether cursive writing should be taught in schools — and many of you replied with a resounding “Yes!” You said cursive helps develop fine motor skills, improves mental focus, and lets you read old...

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.

Spill the Tea (episode #1521)

If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don’t want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in “truth.” To spill the T means to “pass along truthful information.” Plus...

Keep Your Powder Dry (episode #1519)

Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms — that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub called a jacuzzi. And the word silhouette commemorates a penny-pinching treasury secretary who lasted...

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