Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Jessie Strasbaugh

Jessie Strasbaugh

Jessie Strasbaugh is an Assistant Content Editor for US Dictionaries.

Articles by Jessie Strasbaugh


10 medical words you thought you knew

medicine

For many, thoughts of October immediately wend to visions of changing leaves, warm sweet beverages, and costumed children plying neighbors for candy. But October can make a further claim on our interest: it’s also known as Health Literacy Month. As anyone who has taken an anatomy class or tried to read a prescription may attest, […]

books

Book quiz: can you recognize these classic last lines?

Our previous book quiz, which tested your knowledge of first lines in novels, yielded some very high scores. But how well do you know last lines? Though a book’s opening lines may determine whether or not you take the book home at all, it’s as likely to be the last lines that stick in your […]

Jimmies, spendy, and shave ice: American regionalisms

ice cream sprinkles

It goes without saying: the United States is a huge country. And while this certainly has some drawbacks (the formidable amount of time it takes to get from one coast to the other, for instance), the United States’ significant landmass also yields significant diversity—particularly when it comes to language. I’m not only talking about the […]

Hammer of the gods: the lyrics of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Confession: I grew up in the 1990s. I admit freely that the only musical artists I knew for a while were N’Sync, the Spice Girls, and Blink-182. But then one day I heard a song called Dazed and Confused by a little band named Led Zeppelin and— after several jaw-dropping minutes of that insanely heavy […]

Little green men to the men in black: alien words in the OED

Little green men to the men in black: alien words in the OED

When responding to the argument that extraterrestrial life cannot exist because humans have not found it yet, Neil deGrasse Tyson—the well-known American astrophysicist—retorted: “That’s like going to the ocean, taking a cup of water, scooping it up, and saying, ‘There are no whales in the ocean.’” It is clear we earthlings have a complicated relationship […]

Die wunnerbaare Sprooch: Pennsylvania German

Pennsylvania German

As a native eastern Pennsylvanian, I tend to get a little misty-eyed when dreaming of shoo-fly pie or spotting a hex sign – such as the ones on the barn in the picture above. However, shoo-fly pie and hex signs are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the culture and tradition […]

Peppers, particles, pain, and the weird words that measure them

Peppers, particles, pain, and the weird words that measure them

For many people, the following two statements probably apply: 20 May is just another day, and You can’t remember the last time you took a moment to contemplate, gratefully, all the varying words that enable us, more-or-less concisely, to understand and efficiently communicate measurement. Yes, measurement. And although 20 May is in fact World Metrology […]

A little bit of pixie dust: five of Disney’s contributions to the English language

A little bit of pixie dust: five of Disney’s contributions to the English language

When we ruminate on the enormous effect all things Disney have had on popular culture from the early 20th century onwards (think ‘Steamboat Willie’ to the upcoming Star Wars films), we might call to mind hundreds of animated movies, several enormous theme parks, thousands of toys, and dozens of familiar characters—not to mention one ubiquitous […]

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