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Episode 1587

Herd of Turtles

Some college students are using the word loyalty as a synonym for monogamy. Are the meanings of these words now shifting? Plus, a biologist discovers a new species of bat, then names it after a poet he admires. Also, warm memories of how a childhood...

Episode 1603

If Grandma Had Wheels

While compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, lexicographer James Murray exchanged hundreds of letters a week with authors, advisors, and volunteer researchers. A new collection online lets you eavesdrop on discussions about which words should be...

Fascinating Letters to an OED Lexicographer

Thanks to a project led by Professor Charlotte Brewer of Oxford University and research fellow Stephen Turton of Cambridge, you can now enjoy a trove of letters between James Augustus Henry Murray and his many correspondents during his work on what...

Episode 1584

Sleepy Winks

It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton’s best-known novel. Today the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest asks contestants for fanciful first sentences that are similarly...

Episode 1583

Made from Scratch

Enthusiastic book recommendations! Martha’s savoring the biography of Alexander von Humboldt, the 19th-century explorer, polymath, and naturalist who revolutionized our understanding of nature and predicted the effects of human activity on...

Episode 1601

Funny Papers

There are word nerds, and then there’s the woman who set up a folding chair on sidewalks throughout the country, cheerfully dispensing tips about grammar. She recounts her adventures in a new book. And the story of the brilliant pioneer of...