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For my latest appearance on the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at the clownish roots of the word bozo. While the image of TV's Bozo the Clown is familiar to many generations of American youth, how did Bozo get his name in the first place? The answer may lie in vaudeville.  Continue reading...
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On the latest episode of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at a classic Yiddishism: kibitz, which can mean "make unwanted comments (as a spectator at a card game)," or something more general like "chitchat." While it's a word with a rich history, its origins are ultimately mysterious.  Continue reading...
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Last year's Scripps National Spelling Bee saw the first tie since 1962, with co-champions hoisting the big trophy together. This year it was déjà vu all over again, as Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam battled to the finish, exhausting the championship word list and finishing as co-champs.  Continue reading...
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The weather is getting warmer, so you might start to see men arrayed in stylishly rumpled seersucker suits (especially in the American South). On the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I followed the thread of seersucker all the way back to its Persian roots, and then looked at how both the fabric and the word spread around the world.   Continue reading...
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For the latest installment of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I take a look at the peculiar history of the word pumpernickel — a kind of German bread with an origin that turns out to be downright devilish.  Continue reading...
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At the 2015 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, it came down to a neck-and-neck battle between Dan Feyer and Tyler Hinman, the two titans of speed-solving. And in an absolutely heart-stopping finish, Dan beat Tyler by half a second.  Continue reading...
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On the latest installment of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at the roots of the festive word carnival, associated with pre-Lenten celebrations around the Christian world. Some scholars speculate that the true origins of carnival actually lie in pagan rituals predating Christianity.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 338 Articles