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That's What They Say

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.

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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: There's a certain intensity to doing something intently

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When people watch or study something intently, there certainly is an intensity to that. We wouldn't call these words interchangeable though.

Aug 07 2022

5mins

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TWTS: Why we can't spend our lifes cutting loafs with knifes

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At some point you probably learned that words like "wife" and "life" are spelled with a "v" instead of "f" in plural form. Easy enough, until you found out plenty of other words, like "roof" and "sheriff," don't follow this rule.

Jul 31 2022

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TWTS: Take your best upshot

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There are upshots and upsides, and there can be upsides to upshots. For some speakers, upshots can even be upsides.

Jul 25 2022

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TWTS: We won't chide you for your past participle of "chide"

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Frequent listeners of That's What We Say know how we much we love to talk about the constant phenomenon of words changing in meaning and use. This week we tackle three examples, including a question about the past participle of "chide."

Jul 17 2022

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TWTS: Ain't too proud to talk about "ain't"

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The only thing wrong with “ain’t” is that someone decided there’s something wrong with it.

Jul 10 2022

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TWTS: Ten years later, we haven't run out of words

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As we celebrate the nation's birthday this week, That's What They Say is celebrating ten years of episodes.

Jul 03 2022

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TWTS: A shrinking pronunciation schism

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Many standard dictionaries still list the traditional pronunciation of “schism” first. However, if you used it, a lot of people probably wouldn’t know what you were talking about.

Jun 26 2022

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TWTS: For people that use “that” instead of “who”

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English Professor Anne Curzan used to cross out "that" and write "who" when her students wrote things like "the person that" in their papers. Then a graduate student asked her why.

Jun 19 2022

5mins

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TWTS: A spot of tea with a side of paper

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Many contemporary dictionaries will only give the paper meaning of “loose leaf." What happened to the tea?

Jun 05 2022

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TWTS: To whom who are concerned about “who” vs. “whom”

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It seems like a good time to revisit the question of when it works well to use "whom."

May 29 2022

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TWTS: Exploiting pronunciation variants to break down "exploitative"

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When something or someone exploits other things or people, we can say they’re “exploitive," “exploitative” or “exploitative.” Yeah, two of these look identical, but trust us, they sound different.

May 08 2022

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TWTS: Not-so tender hooks

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When you’re waiting nervously in anticipation of something, you’re on a kind of hook that may feel tender, but it’s not. The metaphorical hooks on which you find yourself are actually "tenterhooks."

May 01 2022

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TWTS: A glimpse "beyond the pale"

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When something is "beyond the pale," it has crossed the line, or perhaps we could say crossed the fence that delineates what is acceptable.

Apr 10 2022

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TWTS: Better late than later ... or latemost

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When we're talking about two things, we can talk about the former thing and the latter thing. However, once we have three or more things, not everyone agrees on whether there can be a "latter" thing.

Apr 03 2022

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TWTS: When "late" is the difference between life and death

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Some words are deceptively simple. For example, "late" is short, easy to spell and pronounce, but it comes with a laundry list of meanings, some of which you really don't want to confuse.

Mar 27 2022

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TWTS: Havoc isn't the only thing that gets wreaked

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When there’s havoc, it’s often wreaked. When we wreak something, it’s often havoc. But what do "wreak" and "havoc" mean?

Mar 19 2022

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TWTS: New verbs beget old questions about tense

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"Gaslighting" isn't a new concept, but the verb "gaslight" has seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. That's left some people wondering what the past tense of the verb is.

Mar 06 2022

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TWTS: We'll be "up and at 'em," once you tell us who 'em are

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When you hear someone say “up and at ‘em,” you probably know what to do, even if you don’t know who “’em” refers to.

Feb 27 2022

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TWTS: "Both" and "each" are interchangeable, except when they're not.

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When you’re only talking about two things, “both” and “each” can be interchangeable and often are. However, “both” can sometimes be ambiguous.

Feb 20 2022

4mins

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TWTS: A snowblower can snowblow snow, but a linguist can help you talk about it later

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There's a certain satisfaction in telling someone about snowblowing half a foot of accumulation off your driveway. That is, until you stumble over the past tense of "snowblow."

Feb 13 2022

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iTunes Ratings

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a modest excellence

By Tosca702 - Nov 27 2018
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Always a worthwhile way to spend 5 minutes a week.

Short & Fun language notes!

By CMKFish - Nov 20 2018
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Fun for English language learners and also English language users!!