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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.
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The Oxford English Dictionary
's recent quarterly update added, as usual, as assortment of terms from all over the map. These included ethnomathematics, honky-tonker, honor code, exfoliator, bookaholic, over-under, wackadoo,
and the even wackier wackadoodle
. But the entry that really caught my eye was bestie
, an affectionate term for a best friend.
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If you saw the documentary "Wordplay," you witnessed young Tyler Hinman win the first of his five consecutive victories at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. This achievement seemed untouchable... until this year's tournament, when Dan Feyer managed to win for the fifth straight time — beating out none other than Tyler Hinman. Puzzlemaster Brendan Emmett Quigley wraps up the action.
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I've written columns culled from the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) before, but it wasn't easy. I always had to thumb through the pages like a caveman. No more! Now, finally, DARE is available digitally, allowing this deep well of regional English to be searched easily. This is a bonanza for writers and word nerds everywhere, so get a subscription or take your library hostage until it does so.
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An intriguing new theory holds that Egyptian animal mummies were intended as messages to the gods. The theory is yet more fodder for an age-old problem: how do we reconcile our dependence as humans upon language to communicate to divine beings who in nearly all cases are thought to have pre-existed the emergence of languages that we use and who could never have learned them in the natural way that we do?