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.  Continue reading...
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Hey guys, I wrote a book. Fittingly, I can only state its title euphemistically in this column about euphemisms. It's sorta called Bull*#@$: A Lexicon. Not being able to name my book could be construed as an obstacle in my quest to use this column for shameless self-promotion. Or is it?  Continue reading...
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The latest episode of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley is a hoot and a half, as I take a look at the origins of hootenanny, a word that emerged from rural America with many meanings before finding fame as a name for folk-music gatherings.  Continue reading...
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On the latest installment of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I look into the origins of the slang term humdinger, which hit it big around the turn of the 20th century to refer to someone or something remarkable or impressive.  Continue reading...
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For the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I explored the peculiar origins of the word boondoggle, which took a strange trip from the world of Boy Scouts to the world of politics 80 years ago.  Continue reading...
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For the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I delve into the many stories surrounding the origins of the word gringo, an epithet used by Latin Americans for foreign speakers, typically American Anglophones. Though a great deal of vivid folklore surrounds the word, its actual etymology is just as interesting.  Continue reading...
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For Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley, I look at the origins of an expression that turns nervousness and apprehension into a jokey malady: the heebie-jeebies. It turns out we can pin down not just the coiner but the very day that he coined the word.  Continue reading...
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