That's What They Say is a weekly segment on Michigan Radio that explores our changing language. Each week University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan will discuss why we say what we say with Michigan Radio Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth.
TWTS: In which we dispose of listener questions
Today we’ll dispose of not one but two listener questions. No, that doesn’t mean we’re going to throw their questions away. It means we’ll use the information we have at our disposal to answer them, so to speak. Starting with a question about “disposal.”
TWTS: "Unbeknown" or "unbeknownst"? Who knowst
To know or to beknow? That is, well, not actually the question. However, there is some debate over whether something is “unbeknown” or “unbeknownst.” Listener Randy Miller brought this up after coming across “unbeknown” in a piece in a major newspaper.
TWTS: How to sort older elders
If you have an older sister, you can also have an elder sister. However, if you have an older house, you don’t also have an elder house. We’ll talk about why in a bit. As to why we’re even talking about “older” and “elder,” a listener recently asked us to settle a debate.
TWTS: To all the words we've used before... but don't anymore
During the pandemic, many of us have spent much of our time at home cleaning out closets, basements and garages, getting rid of things we no longer use or need. Sometimes editors of dictionaries have to do the same thing. When new words are added, obsolete words get scrapped to make room. We're talking about print dictionaries, of course: actual books with pages. Books that will keep getting bigger and heavier if cuts aren't made.
TWTS: Maybe “by and by” will be more specific in the by and by
It can be helpful, as well as potentially confusing, to have vague expressions of time such as “by and by.” The more we thought about this expression, the more trouble we had trying to think of how we even use “by and by.” Sure, it shows up in poetry and music , but those contexts don’t exactly lend themselves to everyday use.
TWTS: Mortgage, death pledge - it's all the same
In honor of tax season, Merriam Webster recently tweeted the origins of “mortgage.” It’s derived from two Old French words meaning “death” and “pledge.” Though "death pledge" probably sounds about right to some of you, others might be wondering how "mortgage" ended up with such a dark origin story.
I absorb books about English usage, so I have looked forward to and enjoyed Sunday mornings.
However occasionally I do miss some broadcasts, so THANK YOU for the blog! We are about to fly to see our (UM Alumna) daughter, so I am saving the blog entries as a treat during our the flight. Love it!
a modest excellence
Always a worthwhile way to spend 5 minutes a week.
Short & Fun language notes!
Fun for English language learners and also English language users!!