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Boaty McBoatface

Britain’s new polar research ship is named RSS Sir David Attenborough, even though an online vote overwhelmingly chose the name Boaty McBoatface. Versions of this playful construction go back at least as far as a 1987 episode of the television...

Newsletter: Meet Us at the Museum

Hey, there! A happy post-election season to you. We hope our friends on the east coast are fully powered, dry, and warm. And everywhere else, we hope your recycling is overflowing with campaign signs. Here’s what we’ve been up to: brand...

“But” at the Beginning of Sentences

Every elementary school student is taught never to start a sentence with but. But why? Teachers of young students often warn against beginning with but or and simply as a way of avoiding a verbal crutch. All mature writers develop an instinct for...

A Few Quick Book Reviews

Although I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like, here are a few books I have recently read and enjoyed. Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky of the Yiddish Book...

Formal Movie Language

Is the excessively formal language in “True Grit” (2010) historically accurate? The hosts discuss why the Coen brothers would do away with contractions to set a tone for the movie. This is part of a complete episode.

acoustic ranching

acoustic ranching  n.— «Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole hope to prove fish can be trained to associate certain sounds with feeding, by putting thousands of black sea bass in a dome-shaped structure at the...