Grammar, Punctuation & Phrases

A collection of answers to grammar, spelling and punctuation questions, plus explanations on the origins of popular phrases.

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Many people think 'Latine' is a better gender-inclusive term than 'Latinx.' Here's why.

By Melissa K. Ochoa

How did blue collar, white collar (and pink collar!) end up in our lexicon, and what are the origins of their meanings?

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

It's a strange phrase when you think about it, as people don't normally ride pigs. So where did it come from?

By Melanie Radzicki McManus

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The origin of this false grammatical no-no is lost to history. But, we still shy away from starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions. And here's why.

By Laurie L. Dove

When you're holding something together with nothing more than spit and perhaps some duct tape (duck tape?), what is the correct term, jury- or jerry-rigged?

By Laurie L. Dove

To be "on the lam" means to be on the loose or on the run, but what does "lam" mean and where does this colorful phrase come from?

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

It's a phrase appropriate to Thanksgiving as well as other times of the year. But the most popular origin story has a disturbing explanation.

By Alia Hoyt

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No one ever says "heveled" or "gruntled." Do these words even exist? Not every word needs an opposite to prop it up. Here's why.

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

You've surely heard it in the movies even if you've never used it. So who came up with the phonetic alphabet and why is it used?

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

Whether these people knew it or not, their famous last words made a real statement. How many can you figure out?

By Alia Hoyt

You might think it's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But you're wrong. And anyway, that's a song, not a word.

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

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Some words are extra important. Enter capitalization, the perfect way to show just why such words are special. How adept are you at knowing what to capitalize? Take this quiz and find out!

By Alia Hoyt

Some words, like "cat" or "dog" are easy enough to spell. Others, however, cause quite the spelling frakas. Or is it fracas? Take the quiz to determine your spelling IQ!

By Alia Hoyt

It takes a lot of brass to pull off chutzpah successfully. What does the word mean and what separates it from mere impudence?

By Dave Roos

Ever heard anyone say, "He swears like a sailor"? Why do sailors get singled out for being extra-profane? Because there's a long, colorful history behind it.

By Dave Roos

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President-elect Joe Biden has pretty much made 'malarkey' a household word, so we thought we'd do some research into its origin story.

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

The Latin language may be dead, but this phrase, which originated 2,000 years ago, is still used in legal and financial docs. So what does it mean?

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

If you've ever expressed the charming idea that you have a buttload of something – a buttload of laundry to do, a buttload of tacos to eat – you may have wondered what the measure of a buttload actually is and where the phrase came from.

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

Ever found yourself in a pickle and wondered, "Hey, why the heck do we call it a pickle?" Let's see if we can swim through the brine and find out.

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

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The phrase (which means to ride in the front passenger seat of the car) seems like it might have come about during the Wild West. But it actually took a detour through Hollywood.

By Melanie Radzicki McManus

The term Latinx has emerged recently as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina, but not everyone is on board. In fact most Hispanics haven't even heard it before.

By John Donovan

From the worlds of politics, professional baseball and old-time boxing came a term still in use today to describe someone who has a left-handed predilection.

By Laurie L. Dove

You didn't ask for a cigar. Maybe you don't even like them. So why is someone abruptly denying you one?

By Nathan Chandler

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'Take it with a grain of salt' means to be skeptical about something. But where does the phrase come from?

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

The @ sign is so much a part of the internet that it may surprise you to know it's been around for at least 1,500 years.

By Dave Roos