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Pelion Upon Ossa

In The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (Bookshop|Amazon), Simon Winchester refers to piling Pelion upon Ossa, meaning “making a difficult situation even more difficult...

Chihoo! A Samoan Cry

Rachel from San Diego wonders whether the exuberant Hawaiian cry chihoo! is onomatopoetic — that is, if the sound of the word resembles what it actually denotes. The cry is not originally Hawaiian. It’s a version of the Samoan war cry known as...

Belligerent Doesn’t Mean Drunk

Some people, particularly younger folks, are adamant that the term belligerent means “drunk.” It’s a misanalysis of the word, perhaps associating being intoxicated with being ready to fight. Instead, belligerent derives from the...

Auctioneer Lingo

A professional auctioneer shares some techniques for creating his mesmerizing, melodious patter. He explains that auctioneers are known as colonels, because colonels in the civil war were assigned with auctioning off captured property. And he warns...