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Mrs. Astor’s Pet Horse

Julie in Greenwood, Indiana, says her mother was fond of the expression Mrs. Astor’s pet horse, meaning “someone who dresses ostentatiously.” The phrase refers to Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, from the ultra-wealthy Astor...

Etymology of Lieutenant

A listener in Montreal, Canada, asks: How do you pronounce lieutenant? The British say LEF-ten-ant, while Americans say LOO-ten-ant. In the United States, Noah Webster insisted on the latter because it hews more closely to the word’s...

British Zed and American Zee

Americans pronounce the letter Z like “zee,” while those in other English-speaking countries say “zed.” That’s because Noah Webster proposed lots of Americanized pronunciations and this is one of the few that stuck...

“Ch” Speling Reform

Noah Webster originally tried changing the spelling of hard ch words to begin with k, as in karacter, but the shift never caught on, as is usually the case with spelling reforms. This is part of a complete episode.

Draft and Draught

What Americans call a cold draft, the British call a cold draught. Noah Webster deserves most of the responsibility for changing the British spelling. Regardless of how they’re spelled, both words rhyme with “daft,” not...