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Origin of Suffrage

Ronna from Jackson, Wyoming, asks about the word suffrage, meaning “the right to vote.” It goes back to the Latin word suffragium, which in ancient Rome meant a “voting tablet,” but  beyond that, this word’s...

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...

Where Does Voting “Poll” Come From?

Why do we vote at a polling place? Pol in Middle English simply meant head, and polls are the place where heads are counted. The Middle English word for head also gives us get polliwog, a young frog with a wiggly head, and tadpole, those toads and...

You Did It!

Happy new year and welcome to another A Way with Words newsletter! As you might have guessed by the subject line, you helped the show reach its fundraising goal of $25,000 — and you beat it! Thank you so much for your generosity and your vote of...

“App” is Apt

Great Googly-Moogly, it's another newsletter from "A Way with Words"! In our latest archive episode: If a woman keeps her own name after marriage, is she "Ms." or "Mrs."? Also,"redd up," "out like...

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Salvete! In this week’s archive episode, we revisit the musical language of railroad conductors’ calls, and chat with a Vietnam vet about a term he often heard while serving, “cumshaw artist.” We also talk about the influence...