Word Routes

Exploring the pathways of our lexicon

Don't Eighty-Six That Etymology!

For the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at how the seemingly random number eighty-six became a verb meaning to get rid of something, thanks to a long-forgotten code of hash houses and soda-fountain lunch counters.


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Ben Zimmer is language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to his regular "Word Routes" column here, he contributes to the group weblog Language Log. He is also the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society. Click here to read more articles by Ben Zimmer.

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Comments from our users:

Tuesday December 15th 2015, 8:26 PM
Comment by: Ron H.
where's the article?
Wednesday December 23rd 2015, 12:36 PM
Comment by: Martin E. (Hudson, TX)
Try the "Soundcloud" podcast. It is a, gasp, an audio article. Teachers are no longer teaching cursive writing in schools and not the printed word is in danger. How will anyone sign documents or other important papers in their location or station in life. Maybe we will attach a USBxxx unit onto the paper with a crayon scribble and a verbal order.
Martin

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