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Ketchup or Catsup?

Ketchup or Catsup?

Melissa February 26, 2015 0

Byron H. asks: Why is it sometimes catsup and other times ketchup? The two distinct spellings for what today is essentially the same condiment are simply the reflection of the evolution of nearly everyone’s

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I Before E, Except After C

I Before E, Except After C

Melissa February 23, 2015 1

Jeremy R. asks: Is it true that more words break the I before E rule than follow it? If so, how come this is taught at all? If you ever want to start a

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Where the Word “Jumbo” Came From

Where the Word “Jumbo” Came From

Karl Smallwood February 19, 2015 0

Jim R. asks: Is it true that the word jumbo came from the name of an elephant? The word “jumbo” can roughly be understood to mean “a large specimen of its kind” and it’s often

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What Does “P.U.” (As in Something Smelly) Stand For?

What Does “P.U.” (As in Something Smelly) Stand For?

Melissa February 3, 2015 1

Mark C. asks: What does the letters in the stinky term P.U. stand for? Often used to accuse someone of exceeding his allotted level of funk, P.U. is, surprisingly, not an acronym, but, rather,

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Where the Expression “To Stand on Ceremony” Comes From

Where the Expression “To Stand on Ceremony” Comes From

Melissa February 2, 2015 0

Marla W. asks: Did Shakespeare really invent the expression “to stand on ceremony” or is this just another expression he gets credit for online that was invented by somebody else? Thanks! Dating back to

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Why Pencil “Lead” is Called “Lead”

Why Pencil “Lead” is Called “Lead”

Daven Hiskey January 28, 2015 0

Karen asks: Why is pencil lead called lead when it doesn’t contain any? In the 16th century, a large deposit of pure, solid graphite was discovered in Borrowdale, England. This was the first time

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Why Did People Once Think the Moon was Made Out of Cheese?

Why Did People Once Think the Moon was Made Out of Cheese?

Daven Hiskey January 23, 2015 0

Because it was formed in the Milky Way? -badop-ting-… *crickets* In fact, nobody ever thought the Moon was made of green cheese… Well, there are nutters out there, so it’s possible that there was

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The Origin and Trademarking of “Couch Potato”

The Origin and Trademarking of “Couch Potato”

Karl Smallwood January 20, 2015 1

Gracen R. asks: Why is someone who is lazy called a couch potato? If you want to call someone lazy, a time-honoured way to do so would be to call them a “couch potato”.

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Why is it Called Area 51?

Why is it Called Area 51?

Melissa January 13, 2015 7

Michael S. asks: Why is it called Area “51”? Where are the other 50 areas? Despite the CIA’s release of previously classified documents in 2013 that acknowledged the existence of Area 51 as a

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The Origin of the Expression “Beside Myself”

The Origin of the Expression “Beside Myself”

Melissa January 2, 2015 1

Katy J. asks: Why do we say “I was beside myself”? Dating back to the dawn of Modern English, the expression “beside myself” has been used to denote someone not in his right mind.

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What Does the “D” in “D-Day” Stand For?

What Does the “D” in “D-Day” Stand For?

Sarah Stone January 2, 2015 1

Tom C. asks: The V in V-Day was for Victory right? So what does the D in D-Day stand for? The Battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day, started on June 6, 1944 and

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Charles Dickens and the Origin of the “Porterhouse Steak”

Charles Dickens and the Origin of the “Porterhouse Steak”

Melissa December 30, 2014 1

Mark asks: Why is a porterhouse steak called that? Essentially two steaks in one, a Porterhouse steak, cut from the short loin of (typically) a steer, has a filet on one side of its

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Pieces of Eight and Two Bits

Pieces of Eight and Two Bits

Melissa December 24, 2014 0

Michael A. asks: Why is “two bit” something cheap? Thanks! There was a time in America when rather than U.S. dollars or British pounds, most people bought and sold with Spanish coins. During the

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The Origin of the Phrase “A Penny For Your Thoughts”

The Origin of the Phrase “A Penny For Your Thoughts”

Matt Blitz December 8, 2014 2

Mark C. asks: Where did the expression “a penny for your thoughts” come from? The word “penny” may have come from the English ruler Penda, King of Mencia (an Anglo-Saxton kingdom in today’s English

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The Origins of Aunt, Uncle, Brother, Sister, Mom and Dad

The Origins of Aunt, Uncle, Brother, Sister, Mom and Dad

Melissa December 4, 2014 1

In case you ever wondered how your relatives came to be called what they are, here’s a brief history. The modern English word for a parent’s sister, “aunt,” is a direct descendant of the

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Origin of “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish,” and Some of History’s Other Most Insightful Quotes about Money

Origin of “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish,” and Some of History’s Other Most Insightful Quotes about Money

Melissa November 26, 2014 0

Andy L. asks: Who first said “penny wise and a pound foolish”? The person credited with coining the phrase, “penny wise and pound foolish,” Robert Burton, also said about writers, “They lard their lean

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The Truth About Prepositions and the End of Sentences

The Truth About Prepositions and the End of Sentences

Melissa November 24, 2014 1

A great man once said, “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” Eloquently highlighting the ridiculousness of strictly adhering to the rule against ending a sentence with a

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“Sleeping Tight” and When the Bed Bugs Started to Bite

“Sleeping Tight” and When the Bed Bugs Started to Bite

Matt Blitz November 24, 2014 3

Nothing put more fear into this author as a child more than being told, right before bedtime, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” I was a logical kid and I knew that ghosts,

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