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Preview: Double-Tongued Dictionary

A Way with Words

A radio program and podcast about language.

Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2017 22:30:32 +0000


Flop Sweat

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 22:30:32 +0000

Gerrymandering draws political boundaries to tip elections towards certain political parties. Originally, the word was pronounced “GARY-mandering” with a hard “g.” But why? And why did it change? • Mark Twain and Helen Keller had a devoted friendship. When he heard accusations that she’d plagiarized a story, Twain wrote Keller a fond letter assuring her [...]

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Around the Gool

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A woman in Monkton, Vermont, says that when she and her 91-year-old mother return from a leisurely drive, her mother will proclaim, “That was a nice ride around the gool.” The phrase going around the gool appears in the Dictionary of American Regional English in a 1990 citation from Vermont. It appears to come from [...]


Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

To groak is an obscure verb that means “to look longingly at something, as a dog begging for food. In the Scots language, it’s more commonly spelled growk. This is part of a complete episode.


Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

We’ve talked before about surprising local pronunciations of things like towns or streets. A term or pronunciation that distinguishes locals from outsiders is called a shibboleth. The word derives from the biblical story of the warring Gileadites and Ephraimites. Gileadites would demand that fleeing Ephraimites pronounce the word shibboleth in a certain way, and if [...]

Buy You A Beer vs. Pay You a Beer

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A San Diego, California, man recalls working on a cruise ship with a Canadian who insisted the proper phrase is not Let me buy you a beer, but Let me pay you a beer. Is that construction ever correct? This is part of a complete episode.

Mark Twain and Helen Keller

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

Mark Twain and Helen Keller enjoyed a close, enduring friendship. When he learned that she was mortified was accused of plagiarism, he sent her a fond letter as touching as it was reassuring. This is part of a complete episode.

New Yorkers Stand Line

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A New York City man wonders if there’s any truth to the story that New Yorkers say they stand on line, as opposed to in line, because of lines painted on the floor at Ellis Island. Although such lines are useful for managing large queues, the origin of this usage is uncertain and cannot be [...]

Poke Fish Dish

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

Dallas Morning News restaurant critic Leslie Brenner has written about the popular fish dish called poke, which takes its name from a Hawaiian word that means “to cut crosswise.” Many other foods take their names for the way they’re sliced, including mozzarella, feta, scrod, schnitzel, and even the pea dish called dahl, which goes back [...]

“Vintage” Moved from Wine to Cars and Clothes

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

The word vintage, from the Latin word vinum “wine,” originally applied to the yield of vineyard during a specific season or a particular place. Over time, vintage came to be applied to automobiles and eventually to clothing. The term vintage clothing suggests more than simply “old clothes” or “hand-me-downs”; it carries an additional connotation of [...]

Solfège Word Quiz

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s musical puzzle is based on the solfège system of the syllables do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti. Each answer is composed of combinations or repetitions of those notes. For example, if the musical question is about a bird that’s now extinct, what’s the musical answer? This is part of a [...]