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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"I'm trying to stave off a cold," a friend said. Another responded, "Wine will work for that." Neither probably realized that, indeed, to "stave off" has its origins in wine, or something like wine.  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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People awakening from a "nightmare" often have the sensation that they can't breathe. Not surprising: That's where the word "nightmare" comes from.  Continue reading...
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When the Academy Awards were given out last month, entertainment news was full of commentary about which movies, directors and performers should have been nominated but weren't—who got snubbed by those snobs in the Academy. That made me wonder if snub and snob were etymologically related.  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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Over the weekend, The New York Times presented an interactive quiz on newly prominent slang terms entitled "Are You On Fleek?" But what does "on fleek" mean, and how did it get to be such a trendy expression, especially on social media? Our resident linguist Neal Whitman investigates.  Continue reading...
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