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Pre-Inca mummy remains found in Lima temple

The remains of four mummies of the pre-Inca Ychsma people have been unearthed in the Huaca Pucllana temple in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima, Peru. All of the mummies are of adults, three women, one man, buried in a seated posture. They were originally mummy bundles, wrapped in layers of textiles, straw and ropes then [...]

Conference Calling in English

Skype. MegaMeeting. Face Time. SightSpeed. Tinychat. ooVoo. Pidgin. Google Talk. Nefsis. WebEx. If you’re in business it’s highly likely that you’ll be using one or some of these tools. Skype alone is used by 35% of small business...Show More Summary

Action language: Sporting Expressions

Have you been following the Olympics and upcoming Paralympics? There are lots of perplexing expressions you might have heard over the last month. Phrasal verbs and idioms are particularly common in sports commentary. Understanding them...Show More Summary

English Trackers: How our editors work

The structure of our editing process guarantees you exceptional quality every time you use our services. This week we thought we’d give you a bit of an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at English Trackers. This is the procedure we go through every day, for every document we receive.     ... ? Read More: English Trackers: How our editors work

Ahoy! Prepare to take on board some nautical expressions

When you think about it, the English language abounds with maritime language. The sea has always been very important throughout British history. Carried in naval ships during the Age of Exploration, English traveled across the globe. Show More Summary

The effects of the medical marijuana market on substance abuse

Rosanna Smart, a job market candidate from UCLA, has a very interesting job market paper (pdf) on this question.  Here is the abstract: Almost half of the US states have adopted \medical marijuana” laws (MMLs),and 58% of Americans now favor marijuana legalization. Despite public support, federal law continues to prohibit the use and sale of […]


Q: Is “swoft” a word? I’ve been told it’s an old word for a liar, but I can’t find it in my dictionary. A: “Swoft” is a very rare word, but it isn’t about lying. It’s about dirt and dust bunnies. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “swoft” as “sweepings.” This isn’t a word you... ? Read More: Swoft-boating

Did whites coin “honky”?

Q: The recent death of Sherman Hemsley (of The Jeffersons on CBS TV) reminded me of all the times he referred to white people as honkies. You don’t hear “honky” much these days, but it got me thinking about the origin of this black slang term. A: It’s likely that “honky,” the black American slang... ? Read More: Did whites coin “honky”?

“Quash” vs. “squash”

Q: Any comments on “quash” vs. “squash”? I rarely hear anyone use the former. The latter sounds gauche to me, even absurd, in a sentence like “My boss squashed the rumor.” I would, however, accept “The landlady squashed the roomer.” A: You’ve got good timing. When your question landed in our inbox, Pat was reading... ? Read More: “Quash” vs. “squash”

Hear Pat live today on WNYC

She’ll be on the Leonard Lopate Show around 1:20 PM Eastern time on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, to discuss the English language and take questions from callers. Today’s topic: an update on “the whole nine yards.” If you miss the program, you can listen to it on Pat’s WNYC page. Check out our books about... ? Read More: Hear Pat live today on WNYC

The whole nine yards, continued

We interrupt our regular programming for this special report. Hundreds of you (well, dozens anyway) have written us over the years about the expression “the whole nine yards,” either to ask about its origin (nine yards of what?) or to suggest one. Some common theories about the source of the expression are that... ? Read More: The whole nine yards, continued

The astonishing life of “Wow!”

Q: I’ve been seeing a lot of people use “wow” to preface a critical or sarcastic comment: “Wow, yet another moronic statement,” or “Wow, you must think the world is flat.” What is “wow” supposed to be? An expression of disbelief? Surprise? Awe? I can’t imagine that people in the 19th century used it (wrong... ? Read More: The astonishing life of “Wow!”

The benefit of your thoughts

Q: I recently asked a friend to give me the benefit of his thoughts about something. He responded thusly: “Asking for the benefit of my thoughts is a bit presumptuous—my wife can confirm that using the word ‘benefit’ in connection with my thoughts is an abuse of the English language!” I believe his response was... ? Read More: The benefit of your thoughts

Is “legitimize” legitimate?

Q: I must protest the use of the word “legitimize.” I know, I’m a few decades too late, but I mourn the loss of the verb “legitimate.” If we must have an “-ize” verb (and I would rather not), I have mustered the temerity to offer my own substitute: “legitimatize.” A: The verb “legitimate” (to... ? Read More: Is “legitimize” legitimate?

Does “sign off on” tick you off?

Q: When I was in the Carter administration, one of the most grating forms of bureaucratese was “sign off on.” The other day, I noticed with alarm that a Wall Street Journal article stated, “The board would have to sign off on any deal.” Am I too squeamish? Is “sign off on” now standard English?... ? Read More: Does “sign off on” tick you off?

A Quick History of Hippopotamuses

Hippos are represented today by just two species: the large, strongly amphibious Hippopotamus amphibius and the smaller, more terrestrial Pygmy hippo Hexaprotodon liberiensis. As usual, the fossil... -- Read more on

Museums, Dealers and Collectors Getting Hands on Foreign Ancient Objects

CBC Radio recently re-ran material first broadcast in June 2015:'Who Owns Ancient Art? Part 1' ( Friday November 20, 2015) Listen to Full Episode 54:00 'Who Owns Ancient Art? Part 2' (Friday November 27, 2015) Listen to Full Episode 53:59 The blurb reads: When the the Taliban and ISIS destroy ancient artifacts, the world responds with outrage. Show More Summary

NSA to Stop Bulk Surveillance by Sunday

The U.S. National Security Agency will end its daily vacuuming of millions of Americans' phone records by Sunday and replace the practice with more tightly targeted surveillance methods, the Obama administration said on Friday.As required by law, the NSA will end its wide-ranging surveillance program by 11:59 p.m. Show More Summary

Who owns art" turned into "Safe harbor" debate

The dealer and collectors' hackneyed argument "who owns art (anyway)?" began losing steam when faced with the rightful riposte that its not so much about "whether" to collect, but "how", it's not about ownership but standards and best practice. Show More Summary

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