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Tagverbs

Up and Quit

Why do people up and quit? Can’t they just … quit? In the 1300s, up and followed by an action literally meant you got up and did something. Today, it’s taken the figurative meaning of doing something with vigor and enthusiasm, and...

Dressed to Kill

If you’re dressed to kill, you’re looking sharp. But does the expression have to do with medieval chivalry or military armor of any kind? Nope. The earliest cases pop up in text in the 1800s, based on the trend of adding the words to...

Borrow vs. Lend vs. Loan

What’s the difference between borrow and lend, or between borrow and loan? The real difference between these verbs is which direction the thing is traveling. Something similar happens with teach vs. learn and bring vs. take. This is part of a...

Verbing Nouns

Is it okay to make a verb out of a noun? Yes! It’s estimated that twenty percent of English verbs started as nouns. Just think of the head-to-toe mnemonic: you can head off a problem, face a situation, nose around, shoulder responsibility...

By Jingo!

If your friend says she’s coming to town Sunday week, exactly when should you expect to see her? What do you call those typographical symbols cartoonists use in place of profanity? Plus grass widows, the linguistic phenomenon called creaky...

Early Language Acquisition

How do children acquire language? Do they start with nouns, like “Mama” and “cat,” then graduate to verbs and other parts of speech? Grant explains that language acquisition starts even earlier, with children simply emulating...

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