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Pronouncing Innovative

A university professor in Baltimore, Maryland, catches himself pronouncing the very same word in different ways depending on the context in which he’s speaking. For him, it occurs with the word innovative, which U.S. and U.K. speakers...

Vaccine Etymology

Vaccines take their name from vaccinia, the virus that caused cowpox. It was the original ingredient used to vaccinate people against smallpox. Stefan Riedel, a pathologist at the Baylor University Medical Center, offers a detailed history of the...

Lurve a Librarian

Greetings, Murphys and Melvins and wedgies, oh my! In this week’s archive episode, we talk about these and other terms for that cruel prank that involves a yank. Also, funny Facebook groups for grammar lovers, the difference between...

Picklebacks and Mountweazels

Martha and Grant talk about phrases you love to hate, like “Do you mind if I put you on hold?” They also talk about mountweazels, jakey bums, picklebacks, and step-ins. And which is the proper term: mothers-in-law or mother-in-laws?

Word Encounters of the First Kind

There’s a frisson you get when you meet a word for the first time—feeling pleasantly stumped in between wondering, “What the heck does that mean?” and hurrying off to find out. Martha and Grant talk about some terms that had just...

bike leg

bike leg  n.— «Casati, like many other bike riding University of Montana students and faculty members, has gotten into the habit of rolling up a pant leg—or two—in order to keep it from catching in the bike chain. […] This fashion...

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