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More People Are Using the Word Jedi in Everyday Life

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From gaslight to d’oh, many common terms we use today have their roots in pop culture. Now, Merriam-Webster reports that the word Jedi, which originally referred to a member of the fictional knightly order in the Star Wars universe, is increasingly cropping up in contexts that have nothing to do with the franchise.

The dictionary cites a few examples of its usage from the past several years. In May 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported an increase in employers looking to hire a "Jedi," and in February 2016, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that Liev Schreiber portrayed Boston Globe editor Martin Baron as a "newsroom Jedi" in the 2015 film Spotlight.

When both writers use the term Jedi, they aren’t talking about someone who has mastered the Force and knows their way around a light saber. In this context, a Jedi can refer to a person who is exceptionally skilled at anything.

According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase "Jedi mind trick" has also entered the lexicon, and it's used to talk about something a little different. When removed from its Star Wars origins, it means "coercing someone into a different state of mind," like in this excerpt from a February 2011 issue of Redbook.

"So how do you hold on to your Zen when your husband's in a bad mood? Leave him alone ... To get him to sync with you (and not you with him), just sit back and let your good vibes work a Jedi mind trick on him."

Star Wars isn’t the only major franchise to have an impact on language. The first Harry Potter book debuted decades after the premiere of A New Hope, and the word muggle already has an entry in Oxford Dictionaries. When used outside the context of the films and books, its meaning is the exact opposite of a Jedi: "A person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.”

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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