Word Matters Podcast

Words That are Their Own Opposites

Word Matters, Episode 22

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How is it possible that a word like 'oversight' can refer to both watchful care and an inadvertent error? Why didn't someone stop this and bring order to the English language? Today we discuss the linguistic oddities known as contronyms. (Or auto-antonyms. Or Janus words. There's a long list.) Then, we'll try to untangle the strange and twisting path of the words 'iniquity' and 'inequity.'

Download the episode here.


(intro music – “Build Something Beautiful” by Tobias Voigt)

(teaser clips)

Peter Sokolowski: One of the things that makes English especially hard is the fact that there are words that have different meanings and are used in different contexts, but they actually come from the same roots.

Neil Serven: The contronyms can create confusion that you don't understand, which is being asked. And that's, what's sort of beautiful and frustrating about it.

(music break)

Emily Brewster: Coming up on Word Matters: when a word is its own opposite and a pair of intertwined, commonly confused words. I'm Emily Brewster and Word Matters is produced by Merriam-Webster in collaboration with New England Public Media. On each episode, Merriam-Webster editors Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, Peter Sokolowski, and I explore some aspect of the English language from the dictionary's vantage point.

When you hear that the language is up to something illogical, like letting a word mean one thing and the exact opposite of that one thing, what do you do? Do you cleave to your opinion? That is, adhere to it tightly. Or, do you let the new information cleave your previous conception of the language in two? That is, split it. Here's Neil Serven with the story of Janus words.

Neil Serven: English is clever. It can also be very confusing, frustrating, create confusion, just for the sake of creating confusion. We have these words that can sometimes mean one thing, sometimes mean another, and sometimes they can mean two things that seem completely opposite. We have a word like sanction. The word sanction can mean "to allow something" or it can mean "to penalize someone," like you're sanctioned by the government, sanctioned by the Senate for breaking a rule. So you've got this word that means essentially two opposite things. There's actually a term for this in English. There's a few terms for this in English because the phenomenon of this is so common that it merited a term. One of those terms is contronym. Contro- meaning like opposite and -nym as we find in synonym and antonym and homonym.

Emily Brewster: Can be spelled C-O-N-T-R-A as well as C-O-N-T-R-O.

Neil Serven: C-O-N-T-R-O-N-Y-M. Another term is Janus word. It's a little more clever. Janus, J-A-N-U-S, is the Roman god that was identified with doors, gates, and all beginnings and Janus was known for having two opposite faces.

Ammon Shea: The word janiform means "two-faced."

Neil Serven: Does it?

Ammon Shea: Yes.

Neil Serven: Janiform-

Ammon Shea: Not a terribly common word. It's like....

Neil Serven: It's a good insult though. We haven't heard that enough. When you deal with two-faced people, you never hear them called janiform.

Emily Brewster: They're also called antagonyms and autoantonyms. Autoantonyms.

Ammon Shea: I like antagonyms.

Peter Sokolowski: Antagonym is new to me. I like it.

Neil Serven: Yeah. That's got enough anger behind it too. For people who are just frustrated by these words, we're going to call them antagonyms. Like they're the literary enemy. They're the Moriarty of the English language.

Emily Brewster: Well, if you're talking about the word literally as being belonging in this class, then that's the one you call the antagonym.

Neil Serven: Right because it infuriates so many people when it can mean according to what has been in literature, or what is written, or what is figurative, which is opposite. That is a whole can of worms.

Ammon Shea: Right. Personally, I have to say, I don't consider figurative and literal to be actual opposites.

Neil Serven: It's a thing, right?

Emily Brewster: Yeah. That's not a classic example at all.

Ammon Shea: Right.

Emily Brewster: What are some more classic examples of contronyms?

Neil Serven: Well, there's the verb "to cleave."

Emily Brewster: Yeah.

Peter Sokolowski: Oh yeah.

Neil Serven: To cleave in one sense means to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly. As in you cleave to traditions. Another sense you split something like with a cleaver or with an ax or something, so in one sense, something is sticking together. The other sense, it's coming apart. You've got other examples such as, I think one of my favorites might be oversight. To have oversight over something means you get to see all of it, but if you commit an oversight, it means you did not see it or you made an error that you should have seen. It's usually there's a sense that is something you should have been taken care of that you didn't and you let it slip. You committed an oversight.

Emily Brewster: Yes.

Ammon Shea: I think dust is a real classic example because it means either to remove the dust from something, as in dusting the furniture, or to place dust on, as in dusting the cake.

Emily Brewster: Yes. This was famously treated in one of the Amelia Bedelia books, which I'm sure you all have read multiple times.

Ammon Shea: This is, the entire plot line of Amelia Bedelia. The entire oeuvre is based on contronyms.

Emily Brewster: It's totally true. She is asked to dust the furniture and so she takes the very expensive body dusting powder and sprinkles it all over the furniture.

Ammon Shea: That's the one where she makes them a sponge cake by cutting up the kitchen sponges and baking them I think.

Emily Brewster: No, I think it's actually the one where she dresses the turkey by sewing it a suit. I think it's later actually.

Ammon Shea: Oh. Is this the one with the chocolate fish as well, where she gets the raw fish and she dips them in chocolate?

Emily Brewster: Yes. I think so. No. That's a different one.

Ammon Shea: See, that's the problem when you use contronyms as the basis for every book that you write is that they blend together in the haze of time.

Emily Brewster: That's true. That's true.

Neil Serven: It's this notion, of course, that the contronyms can create confusion, that you don't understand which is being asked. That's what's beautiful and frustrating about it, but how do contronyms develop? How did we arrive at a meaning to adhere together and to separate for cleave? In that case, both words came to English individually.

Peter Sokolowski: So, they were two separate words?

Neil Serven: They were two separate words. The one meaning "to adhere} comes from the Old English verb clifian, meaning "to adhere." The one meaning to split along the grain comes from the Old English verb cleofan, which means "to split." It was already in Old English as two separate verbs that then entered English and ended up being spelled and pronounced the same way. With sanction, I think we're dealing with something different. Obviously that comes from one root. Then we're dealing with the idea of things being sanctified, things being allowed, according to what is sacred, I guess? Then splits into this, you've allowed it and then you've come down on someone and then caused them to be penalized for it.

Emily Brewster: Right. This starts with a formal decree.

Neil Serven: There's a formal decree.

Emily Brewster: And the decree can either be like, "Yes, we like this. No, you messed up."

Neil Serven: Right. That's how you can be sanctioned either way.

Peter Sokolowski: That went from the broad to the narrow in meaning. Then there's another one that went from the narrow to the broad, which is peruse.

Neil Serven: Sure.

Peter Sokolowski: Which had originally meant "to examine with careful attention." Now it means "to examine with inattention" essentially, to not pay careful attention.

Neil Serven: It has broadened so much that people essentially just use it as a synonym for read, even when they are trying to heighten their vocabulary. I think it's really hard to interpret whether it's going to actually involve careful intention or involve inattention.

Peter Sokolowski: Right. I usually assume it means without much attention.

Ammon Shea: Similar to what happened with bemuse.

Peter Sokolowski: Oh.

Ammon Shea: It's gone from confusion to being more or less a loose synonym for amuse.

Neil Serven: Amuse.

Peter Sokolowski: Oh, right right, right.

Emily Brewster: A lot of times there is no confusion with these. I think for the most part they survive, they endure because there is not confusion. Cleave, people are not confused about which one.

Ammon Shea: Which is, I think is so fascinating about this is that the example of that people always try to latch onto is literally which A, is not a true contronym in my view, but people love to say, "If we let words mean something different than what they're supposed to," whatever that means, "that the language will lose its specificity." Except that that doesn't actually happen. These are words such as oversight, which have literal in the true sense of the word, whatever we want that to mean that have actual opposite meanings and nobody is really ever confused. Nobody ever says of the House Oversight Committee, "Do you mean oversight as in you are looking over or do you mean oversight as in you've forgotten something?"

Neil Serven: It's the committee that makes all the errors.

Ammon Shea: Right. It's obvious what they mean. We all just rolled with it based on context. Context is king here. Context gives us everything we need.

Neil Serven: They actually play on that in the movie Quiz Show, I believe. Rob Morrow's character is on the phone with somebody and is giving them heck about something they didn't provide. The guy says, "It's just an oversight." Someone else in the room says, "We're an oversight committee." It plays on that and it just enjoys that richness of the irony of it. What's interesting though, is that these are still happening. We're still creating new senses of words and then they're finding senses that are almost contrary to previous existing senses. I think of the word drop. Past 10 years, we've heard about new series, new episodes dropping when they're released to the public.

Emily Brewster: I think it started in music, right? An album dropping or a mixtape dropping?

Neil Serven: An album dropping, a mixtape dropping. It is now available, but before you would say drop to say to make something go away.

Ammon Shea: Right.

Neil Serven: You would say, "I want to drop the subject."

Emily Brewster: Right. Or a musician was dropped from a label.

Neil Serven: A musician was dropped from a label. They're not there anymore. So drop has this a sense of being separated from something which you can see, literally, you drop a piece of paper, it separates from your hand, but now something drops, it appears. It appears on the table. Maybe it's from turntables actually, records actually dropping? I don't know.

Emily Brewster: Dropping a name is a similar kind of depositing into a conversation this name that's going to impress people. That is older. That also is presenting something.

Neil Serven: It's the same kind of way. Both of them make sense perfectly on their own from what we know of the verb "to drop."

Emily Brewster: That's right. People are not confused about this. You drop the subject, you have not raised the subject. You've dropped it.

Ammon Shea: It's slightly older than drop, but still a relatively recent one and one of the more prominent examples of a Janus word is bad. Bad meaning "good." I'm sure it existed in African-American vernacular prior to Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Shaft, but that's when it entered the popular lexicon at that point. People became aware of bad meaning "good." It's such a dramatically opposite meaning. Yet we rarely hear people say, "Do you mean bad as in bad bad, or bad as in bad good?" I mean, we just figure it out.

Emily Brewster: More recently, sick. Sick moves. If somebody has sick moves, it's not the same as somebody who is not feeling well.

Neil Serven: Actually sick and moving like they are sick.

Peter Sokolowski: Or just a superlative compliment. That guitar player is sick. Something like that. Ammon made the point that it's all about context. Some of these are, I think, are hiding in plain sight, such basic words like clip. "Clip on" is to attach something, but if you clip a branch, then you're cutting it off. Now, of course, the context is so clear with these that you never think of it. Or the word fast, which means "moving quickly" or "immobile." Fact is some of these, I think, almost hiding in plain sight because the context makes it crystal clear when we are using each one. But it does make for English to be such a difficult language to negotiate.

Ammon Shea: Right. Like "he performed terribly" or "he was terribly excited." Terribly is taking on a distinctly different meaning.

Peter Sokolowski: Right.

Ammon Shea: But even in that case, we can figure it out, having grown up with the language it's much easier.

Peter Sokolowski: That's a really good example because it's quite a subtle distinction and yet, it's a big difference in meaning.

Neil Serven: Occasionally you can invert this phenomenon and take two words that are seemingly opposite and they turn out to actually mean the same thing in certain contexts. I think of hot and cool. You've got a hot new performer, somebody that's really popular and so is cool. Cool has always meant what's popular. Finding these creative paths for these words to take and then you end up at the same point just because you're looking for this new expression and then it happens.

Emily Brewster: Here's language doing its work for the people who use it.

(music break)

Emily Brewster: You are listening to Word Matters. I'm Emily Brewster. We'll be back after the break with the difference between iniquity and inequity. Word Matters is produced by Merriam-Webster in collaboration with New England Public Media.

Peter Sokolowski: I'm Peter Sokolowski. Join me every day for the Word of the Day. A brief look at the history and definition of one word available at Merriam-Webster.com or wherever you get your podcasts. For more podcasts from New England Public Media, visit the NEPM podcast hub at NEPM.org.

Ammon Shea: I'm Ammon Shea. Do you have a question about the origin, history, or meaning of a word? Email us at: wordmatters@M-W.com.

(music break)

Emily Brewster: The words iniquity and inequity mostly appear in distinct contexts. People confuse them only if one, usually the less common word iniquity, is unfamiliar, but the words are remarkably similar. If you put the two side-by-side, they start to almost seem like a Magic Eye puzzle. Here's Peter Sokolowski on a pair of very close yet quite distinct, words.

Peter Sokolowski: One of the things that makes English especially hard is the fact that there are words that have different meanings and are used in different contexts, but they actually come from the same roots. We often call these doublets. Some of them are obvious. Some of them are less obvious. I mean, the words grammar and glamor for example, have the same origin, but they came into English at two different times and were bruised in different ways as they came through the language. The words platoon and peloton are two that I like because platoon means a group of soldiers that came into the language in the 17th century. Peloton is a group of bicycle riders or racers that came into the English language actually fairly recently, maybe 50, 60 years ago and yet, those two words are actually from the exact same word in French peloton, spelled in the way that we spell peloton. So all this means is that in the early modern period, we were sort of less friendly or less accurate with our rendering of French spellings. The peloton looks more like a French word, but they're one word borrowed twice, so that means there are two words.

There's other examples of this, like the words warranty and guarantee. That just simply has to do with the fact that some of these consonants changed over time in France before they were borrowed across the Channel into English. There's a lot of these words that are connected at their roots, but we make a distinction and sometimes they're words like tulip and turban that we don't think of as being related at all. Then there's another kind of doublet, which is the kind that is so close that some people make a distinction and others don't like further and farther. I can see a convenient way to isolate the two words is make farther the literal distance and further the more metaphorical connection.

Emily Brewster: Right, but if you look at the history of the actual usage of those words, they have been used interchangeably over the centuries and-

Peter Sokolowski: Yeah, for a thousand years.

Emily Brewster: In most contexts, they are indistinguishable from one another. Historically they do have different. If you mean, moreover, you're not going to say, "And farther...."

Peter Sokolowski: Right.

Emily Brewster: ... say, so they do have some distinct uses, but if you're talking about a distance, they're both used.

Peter Sokolowski: They are both used all the time. And no speaker of English really is going to have a bad instinct for that. They're going to say one of those words and it will be understood perfectly. There's another way that these doublets happen, which is when one word comes more or less directly from the ancient root language into English and the other one is actually created in English from the constituent parts of the word of the ancient root language. An example of this is the pairing inequity and iniquity. I have to say, I always thought these were a single word. I wasn't sure that these were two words at all. It took a while for me to slowly separate them. I realized that my own understanding of these words parallels the way in which they have been understood or misunderstood or used or misused in the history of English language because we do have two different words. Iniquity is the older one and it came from French iniquite, this French word that goes back to a Latin word that meant "wickedness" or "sin." So, wickedness is the key term. This is the word that's used in the Bible a lot.

Emily Brewster: Well, I only know it in the phrase "den of iniquity" or almost only, right?

Peter Sokolowski: Oh right.

Emily Brewster: When I think of iniquity, I think of a den of iniquity. It has to do with gross injustice, with wickedness.

Peter Sokolowski: Exactly. That sounds like a biblical phrase. The actual phrase in the King James version is "den of thieves," but "den of iniquity" means like a place where evilness lives. That as bad a place as you can get, but inequity with an E means unfairness or injustice. These two words are very close because you could say injustice is similar to wickedness and yet, there is a little bit of daylight between them. Just enough to keep these as separate words. Now, the origin of, obviously, the root word, if you go far back enough is the same as the root word for the word equal in English, which is aequus in Latin. But this iniquity word that came into English through the French of the Middle Ages, which had the meaning of wickedness, this is the word that was defined by Johnson and Webster in their dictionaries. I don't think Johnson had inequity in his dictionary at all. It wasn't an important enough word for him.

Ammon Shea: Why put it in his dictionary when he had it in his heart?

Peter Sokolowski: But you do see iniquities in the Bible. I remember learning this as a part of the prayer in the Catholic Mass, "Wash me oh Lord from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." So, clearly by that context, you understand that it means wickedness or evilness. In fact, the adjectives that we associate with the word iniquity make it clear: wicked or forgiving or evil or guilty or moral. These are all the words that if you do a corpus search with the word iniquity you're going to come up with. But clearly the word that is used the most frequently with iniquity is den, as Emily said, "den of iniquity." That's a phrase that goes back to the 17th century.

Emily Brewster: We have other more common words that we use to do that job that iniquity technically does.

Peter Sokolowski: Right.

Emily Brewster: We talk evil and wickedness and-

Peter Sokolowski: Yeah. There's something very specifically, almost biblical about it. In fact, it was in the film Pulp Fiction. It's in that rant, that biblical or pseudo-biblical phrase-

Neil Serven: Ezekiel 25:17, that's the one?

Peter Sokolowski: I guess you've got it.

Emily Brewster: Neil, can you recite it?

Neil Serven: Oh. "And I will strike down upon thee with furious anger.

Peter Sokolowski: Exactly.

Neil Serven: Or something like that.

Peter Sokolowski: Exactly. That's the way I think it ends, but it begins with this phrase that includes the word iniquity. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men."

Emily Brewster: Is that a fake Bible verse?

Peter Sokolowski: It is a fake Bible verse. It's sort of an amalgam. It's close to a couple of different Bible verses, but it was clearly made up-

Neil Serven: I think the joke of it was that he was supposed to have gotten it wrong.

Peter Sokolowski: Oh.

Neil Serven: Yet he still thinks he's got the word of God.

Peter Sokolowski: Oh, that's interesting.

Emily Brewster: Well, you say it with authority and it's got authority behind it.

Peter Sokolowski: He sure has authority. What's interesting is that even in this pop culture context, a very famous film, this word immediately brings us to the world of biblical language. But with inequity, this is different because inequity didn't come down from Latin through French. Inequity was actually constructed in English from the Latin prefix in, meaning not the negating prefix, and the word equity, which existed. You never think of the fact that we don't have an English word iquity. We have iniquity, which means wickedness, but there's no iquity, which means goodness or something. You can't break iniquity down, but you can break inequity down. That's just one of those things that makes English so weird and bizarre that there's no logical parallel between these two otherwise perfectly parallel words.

Neil Serven: I think what happens sometimes with words is that because they take so long to develop and to be borrowed and then to be passed down and then they're formed, sometimes the difference that matters is when they are formed.

Peter Sokolowski: Exactly.

Neil Serven: I think of words like famous and infamous. We talk about infamy. People sometimes interpret that as being, "Oh, we've added a prefix to the word famous," but that's not really the case.

Peter Sokolowski: Right.

Neil Serven: So, people wonder, "Well, this is why you can be famous and infamous at the same time." They're not necessarily opposites, but they're words that can adhere to each other in this different way. Even though they look like they have the prefix going on. Of course, we always talked about the flammable/inflammable problem.

Peter Sokolowski: Oh right.

Neil Serven: Inflammable, the prefix was part of the origin of the word, inflammare, so in that prefix, of course, does not mean "not." It means "within."

Peter Sokolowski: Right.

Neil Serven: Something that was inflammable was able to be consumed within flames, so people sometimes would interpret the in as the negative prefix and then interpret inflammable as "not flammable." That's where all this confusion began. I think part of what you're noticing with this is that the point at when the prefix would develop would then alter the word according to what it meant at that point. It can mean different things at different points. So, the prefix altering the meaning would then affect it at different points.

Peter Sokolowski: Yeah. Searches of 15th, 16th century texts and it's clear that these two words were actually interchangeable at that time, but that was a time before fixed spelling. It's a time before big dictionaries or standardized spelling. The fact that these words are confused today actually has a 400-year history of these words slowly overlapping each other. One thing that's interesting though, is that the adjectives that are formed from these nouns do follow different morphological paths. They're completely unlikely to be mistaken for each other because we say inequitable, but we also say iniquitous, right? There aren't parallel adjectives to these very parallel nouns. That's bizarre also. It's weird how things land in English when, all things being equal, you'd expect forms to resemble each other. Sometimes they don't.

For example, we say equality, but we don't say equalness quite so often, although equalness is understandable in Shakespeare's day, I think they were used essentially as synonyms, but as frequently as each other. That's kind of interesting too. There's no real logic to the fact that we have settled on equality rather than equalness in the English language and yet, equity and equality also seemed to be kind of synonyms and kind of not. They do share an ultimate root, of course, of aequus, meaning even or fair or equal in Latin, but Latin had a word for equity, aequitas. It had a word for equality, a separate word, aequalitas. So, the difference between equity and equality isn't something that's new to English. It's something that goes back 2000 years or more. All the way back to the original Latin words upon which these words are based.

Neil Serven: I don't know if anyone has seen this on social media. This meme I've seen that tries to explain the difference between equity and equality. It shows a picture of three children standing behind a fence, trying to look at a baseball game. Equality is when you give them each a box and it only helps the tallest kid see over the fence. Whereas equity is, if you give the shortest kid three boxes, the second kid two, the third kid one, and then they could all see over the fence, so this is sort of how we've adjusted and tweaked the meanings of those words, probably after the fact.

Peter Sokolowski: Well, absolutely because equality means just sameness in shape or status, but equity has this idea of fairness or justice that is different and separate from equality, even though of course, equality in a broadest sense could incorporate those ideas of fairness as well. It's an interesting point. It's something that I think dictionaries have to address because if words are being sliced that thinly, then we have to make sure the definitions account for those distinctions. Again, these are ancient distinctions that have been carried on pretty consistently in English. They came through French. What's funny is the way that these words landed also in English from French because French changed the way it pronounced things. In Latin, you would pronounce the Q-U as we do in English sometimes like aequus, equal, aequus, but in French you say iquite, you pronounce a Q-U with a K sound. But a lot of those were switched to a G sound. For example, in French, the word equal is egale in modern French. So the Q-U became a G sound, which is why we have the word egalitarian in English rather than for us to have the word equalitarian.

Neil Serven: In French, they pronounce the Q as a K. People might've heard that and then adjusted the K to the hard G sound.

Peter Sokolowski: It actually switches. It softened to a G in French before it came to English actually.

Neil Serven: Okay.

Peter Sokolowski: That's just a process. Some of them soften more. Some of them stayed a hard K sound, and they're still spelled today with a Q-U and some of them softened to that G sound because that's the one that English took. That's why we spell these words in different ways. Even though if you go back to Latin, of course, they all start in the same place, all things, again, being equal.

Emily Brewster: This doesn't mean that equalitarian couldn't happen.

Peter Sokolowski: No. Here's the thing. It would be perfectly understandable. Don't you think?

Emily Brewster: I do. I do. To touch on inequity and iniquity again, I was thinking of the distinction in pronunciation is not one that is made for many speakers of English. There's an eh/ih distinction that some dialects of English do not have at all. For those speakers, inequity, iniquity, there is no distinction between those.

Neil Serven: I have to say that I didn't have a church upbringing. So iniquity is not a term that I grew up knowing really at all, until I became an adult I think.

Peter Sokolowski: But I was an alter boy, so I heard the word all the time. It just occurs to me, as you said that, that I think I basically was confused enough. I heard it in the Mass and I knew of the word inequity, it made them both gray to me.

Neil Serven: You thought they were talking about unfairness, perhaps?

Peter Sokolowski: Well, you could almost squint and understand it that way. It would still kind of work. As a consequence, I never used the word inequity because I clearly was confusing it with iniquity. I think it took a long time for me to shake those out.

Ammon Shea: I think I still remember the first time I came across the word iniquity and I was in 6th grade, oddly enough. But I do remember understanding it from context. It was my 6th grade class's doing, for some reason or other, a production of Tom Jones, a Henry Fielding work, which is an odd choice. The squire, the one who takes care of foundling Tom Jones, I played his character. He referred at one point to something as being a den of iniquity, the classic case that Emily referenced earlier. I thought at the time it was very clear what it meant. No way it would be a den of inequity. It was a den of iniquity.

Peter Sokolowski: Absolutely and that meant wickedness.

Ammon Shea: Yes.

Peter Sokolowski: Yeah. It's fascinating. It's clear that in English equity also has this other idea because the idea of fairness is attached to the idea of equity. That's why we use equity to refer to like the shares in a corporation or the amount of money that you have paid toward a mortgage, for example, because it has to do with this idea of fairness. That has stuck with equity that has nothing to do with iniquity.

Neil Serven: We even have the term sweat equity, which is-

Peter Sokolowski: The work that you've put in.

Neil Serven: My parents watched This Old House all the time.

Peter Sokolowski: Sure.

Neil Serven: So I know that is the work you put into a house to give it value.

Ammon Shea: Very different from sweat-iquity.

Neil Serven: But even like the tail just grows longer with it. It's like, we're not even talking about fairness anymore. We're talking about just contributions into something to give it value.

Emily Brewster: Equity has expanded in the language where inequity and equity and iniquity has just stuck to its little wicked self.

(music break)

Let us know what you think about Word Matters. Review us on Apple Podcasts or email us at: M-W.com. You can also visit at: NEPM.org. For the word of the day and all your general dictionary needs, visit: Merriam-Webster.com. Our theme music is by Tobias Voigt, artwork by Annie Jacobson. Word Matters is produced by John Voci and Adam Maid. For Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski, I'm Emily Brewster. Word Matters is produced by Merriam-Webster in collaboration with New England Public Media.

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