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"Victuals" is one of those words that many people know by sound and sight but have not put sound and sight together. It's sort of like knowing someone by name and knowing someone by face, but not realizing the two are the same person. Until you accidentally find out, and it's usually embarrassing.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Baseball Lingo, from "Cup of Coffee" to "Southpaw"

With the baseball season underway, the sport's colorful lingo comes to the fore once again. Our own Ben Zimmer talked to KUOW-Seattle about the origins of some baseball terms, like "cup of coffee," "hitterish," and "southpaw." Catch the interview here.
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With the teams competing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament whittled down to the Final Four, "March Madness" is coming to a close. (Actually, as has been the case for a few decades now, March Madness extends into the beginning of April, when the semifinal and final games are played.) In honor of college hoops, I've selected a "Final Four" of important terms associated with the tournament.  Continue reading...
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We all know what a varmint is, thanks to Yosemite Sam (and others). It's an annoying animal (or person), the fauna equivalent of a weed. It's something (or someone) who takes your nice, tidy set-up, your lovely garden or lawn or your livestock, and makes a mess of it. Before you had a good environment; now you have a nasty varmint.  Continue reading...
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Yesterday, March 23, 2014, marked the 175th anniversary of a word that may be the most widely used expression in the world: "OK." MacMurray College English professor Allan Metcalf says "OK" is America's greatest export and debunks the various origin theories surrounding it.  Continue reading...
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A "bear market" is one where stock prices fall, and a "bull market" is one where prices rise. But why do financial folks talk about "bears" and "bulls"? The public radio show Marketplace looked into various origin stories and called on our own Ben Zimmer to explain the history.  Continue reading...
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Meryl Davis and Charlie White made history this week as the first Americans ever to win the Olympic gold medal in ice dancing. But for language watchers, an even more interesting question than who would take first place was this: What's a twizzle?  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 196 Articles