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Lick the Calf Over

In response to our earlier conversation about the phrase to lick the cat over, meaning to repeat a laborious process, many listeners say they use the phrase lick the calf over to mean the same thing. Among the writers who have used it this way: Zora...

Writing Advice from Sarah Smarsh

Sarah Smarsh, author of Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, advises that although would-be writers should read extensively, it’s even more important to listen intensely. This is part of a...

Hornswoggle, That Odd Word

Scott in Billings, Montana, wonders about the word hornswoggle, meaning to swindle, bamboozle, deceive, or trick. This verb found its way into American English during the 1820’s, when there was a fad among newspaper editors and writers for...

Pinning Manuscripts Together

The cut-and-paste feature in word-processing programs makes it easy to rearrange text. But in the past, some writers literally cut and pinned their copy. At the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, you can see the pins Jane Austenused to...

Bah, Humblebrag!

What’s your choice for the 2011 word of the year? Grant shares some of his picks. Speaking of picks, why do football commentators seem to love the term pick-six? Also, great quotations from writers, the meaning of such Briticisms as cheeky and...