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Word Matters

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Word Matters

Merriam-Webster, New England Public Media

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Word Matters is a show for readers, writers, and anyone who's curious about the English language. Join Merriam-Webster editors as they challenge supposed grammar rules, reveal the surprising origins behind words, tackle common questions, and generally geek out about the beautiful nightmare that is our language.
 
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 2, 2021 is: smarmy • \SMAR-mee\ • adjective Smarmy means "behaving in a way that seems polite, kind, or pleasing but is not genuine or believable." // Online reviews of the resort warned of smarmy street vendors when wandering from the tourist areas. See the entry > Examples: "Before [Daniel Craig], Ja…
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 1, 2021 is: derrick • \DAIR-ik\ • noun A derrick is a tall framework over an oil well that supports equipment used in drilling. // Areas of the desert have become fields of oil derricks. See the entry > Examples: "Oil derricks dot the coastline, often scattered in between residential and shopping cente…
 
This week we're joined by Wall Street Journal language columnist and Spectacular Vernacular podcast host Ben Zimmer! Learn all about Ben's research on the history of words like 'hella' and 'Ms.', plus how slang is studied and tracked through time. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/pri…
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 30, 2021 is: hoity-toity • \hoy-tee-TOY-tee\ • adjective Hoity-toity means "pretentious, fancy, or pompous." // The guidance counselor emphasized that students do not need to go to a hoity-toity college to achieve success. See the entry > Examples: "[Daniel Heider] says his post-high-school years were …
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 29, 2021 is: obfuscate • \AHB-fuh-skayt\ • verb Obfuscate means "to make difficult to understand" or "to be evasive, unclear, or confusing." // The coach obfuscated his response as to whether he would retire at the end of the season. // When asked about the lawsuit alleging plagiarism, the singer obfus…
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 28, 2021 is: menorah • \muh-NOR-uh\ • noun A menorah is a candelabra with seven or nine lights that is used in Jewish worship. // At sundown on the first night of Hanukkah, Aaron's father helped him light the first candle on the menorah. See the entry > Examples: "The world's largest menorah went up in…
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 27, 2021 is: commensurate • \kuh-MEN-suh-rut\ • adjective Commensurate means "proportionate" or "equal in size, amount, or degree." // The job posting states that salary will be commensurate with experience. // The budget cuts of the community college are commensurate with other state-funded agencies a…
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 26, 2021 is: maître d' • \may-truh-DEE\ • noun A maître d' (or maitre d') is the headwaiter of the dining-room staff of a restaurant or hotel. // The maître d' ushered the celebrity couple to a private table at the back of the restaurant. See the entry > Examples: "Mike is part of a long-standing trio …
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 25, 2021 is: jovial • \JOH-vee-ul\ • adjective Jovial means "markedly good-humored" and describes people and things that are cheerful or full of joy. // Andy remembered his Uncle Jim as a jovial man with a ready smile, a firm handshake, and a cheery greeting for all. // Family reunions are a jovial occ…
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 24, 2021 is: feign • \FAYN\ • verb Feign means "to give a false appearance of something." // After her mom told her that she will bring her to the doctor's, Kim confessed that she was feigning illness because she forgot to finish her book report. See the entry > Examples: "For his part, Hopkins said Co…
 
First: someone who owns or runs a restaurant is called a restaurateur. What? How did that happen? Is 'restauranteur' a valid word? We'll get into it. Then: why do people say 'meteoric rise' when meteors are famously things that fall? Hosted by Emily Brewster, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.…
 
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 23, 2021 is: enclave • \EN-klayv\ • noun An enclave is an area inhabited by people who are different in some way from the people in the surrounding areas. // The district includes an enclave in which students of the university reside. See the entry > Examples: "Harlem … was rapidly evolving; once a rur…
 
Few words in the English language get people as riled up as the supposed "incorrect" use of 'decimate.' Does it have to keep its Roman meaning of "reduce by one tenth" or can it generally mean "destroy," as it's been used by millions of speakers for hundreds of years? (Hint: see title.) Then we'll look at the language of invitations, and the rescin…
 
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