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As 2012 draws to a close, we're celebrating with a New Year's-themed crossword. Figure it out and you could win a Visual Thesaurus T-shirt!  Continue reading...
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How often do you see an article about the search for the origin of a phrase on the homepage of the New York Times website? Just about... never. And yet the Times today has a story about the history of an expression that we've delved into a couple of times in this space: "the whole nine yards." Diligent word-sleuthing has turned up a rather unexpected predecessor: "the whole six yards."  Continue reading...
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In his latest Word Tasting Note, James Harbeck presents a baker's dozen of reasons why he likes lagniappe, a word meaning "a small gift, especially one given by a merchant to a customer who makes a purchase."  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Does Santa Have a Gender Issue?

"Santa Claus is male, so why isn't he Saint instead of Santa? Does he have a gender issue?" On the Grammarphobia blog, Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman answer that holiday question by looking at how "Santa Claus" entered American English from Dutch. Read their explanation here.
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Blog Excerpts

A Christmas Potpourri

If you're looking for some reading material this Yuletide season in between sips of eggnog, check out some Visual Thesaurus articles from Christmases past. Merrill Perlman explained the history of some seasonal expressions. Mike Pope considered phrases popularized by Christmas movies. Nancy Friedman told us about made-up holidays. And Ben Zimmer revealed the origins of "eggnog," holiday grog.
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Americans are approaching an auspicious anniversary: it has been two hundred years since the first known appearance of "Uncle Sam" as an initialistic embodiment of the United States. The earliest example of "Uncle Sam" was found in the December 23, 1812 issue of the Bennington (Vermont) News-Letter. But another town not too far from Bennington — Troy, New York — has maintained that it is the true birthplace of Uncle Sam.  Continue reading...
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Christmas songs: On city sidewalks and every street corner... from Black Friday through New Year's... they're broadcast inside and out, they stick in our heads, they are parodied and rewritten, and yet many of us, even as we sing along, don't give much thought to what the words mean.  Continue reading...
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