6 Wordsmiths Who Couldn't Spell
This month marks my 6-year anniversary blogging for mental_floss. It also marks mentalfloss.com's 6-year anniversary in the blogosphere. To celebrate the more than 2,000 daily posts, I'll be republishing some of my favorite posts from these last half-dozen years, starting today, running to the end of the month. Hope you enjoy this stroll down memory lane...(Originally published on Feb. 3, 2009) 1. Alfred Mosher... READ ON
Phrase Origins: The Real McCoy and On The Wagon
We use these hackneyed expressions all the time (hence the hackneyed element), but where do they come from? I’m reviving the Weekend Word Wrap feature from years ago to take a look at a couple each week or so. First up, The Real McCoy. The Real McCoy Our version is actually a variation of the original Scottish phrase dating back to the mid 19th century, “A drappie o’ the real MacKay" What’s interesting here is that the ay in MacKay is actually pronounced like “eye.” But what about the real... READ ON
Our New Isms
When it comes to isms, Ferris Bueller, not Trotsky, probably has the most memorable line: "-Ism's in my opinion," he said, "are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself." Okay, so we can debate whether he's right or wrong some other time. The fact is, there are lots of "“isms out there, and not all of them are doctrines or philosophies. Take bruxism, for example. That's teeth grinding, something I do when I sleep that... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Menu Typos
With all the dozens and dozens of Word Wrap posts, I'm flabbergasted that we've never covered menu typos—something that seems like such an obvious topic for a site like this. Of course, the best menu typos can be found in Greece, where lamb is misspelled all over the country as lamp. If you've ever been, then you know it's like striking gold: you get the best food in the world, and have the most fun ordering it. Closer to home, there's a Mexican joint near me... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Polysemes
Lately, I've had a few words/phrases on my mind that have multiple meanings, sometimes known as polysemes. It all started a couple months ago when I asked my friend about his wedding band. He thought I meant the ring, but actually I was referring to the evening's entertainment. This got me thinking about other such phrases (each meaning has to be spelled identically to qualify, otherwise you probably have a homonym on your hands): There's mirror image, which could easily mean an... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Stefano Bertolussi
It's been a while since I posted a Word Wrap. We've had so many talented guest wordies on the blog, I thought I wouldn't crowd their space. But it feels good to bring it back, especially with the below interview I recently did with author and translator, Stefano Bertoussi. Stefano lives in Milan and, as you'll hear in the interview, has made a name for himself translating big American writers into Italian. Among others, Stefano has translated James Ellroy, Madison Smartt... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Baltimore's gender-neutral pronoun - Yo
I happen to love the greeting yo. Not a fan of hello or howdy or hi there or how goes it, I'll shout out a hey or a yo if given the choice any day of the week. Maybe it's the casual sound of it that I like so much: Yo, what's up? rolls of the tongue pretty easily for me. Or maybe it's the two short letters Y-O. Whatever the reason, the word sits well with me. Perhaps this is why I've been following the development of the pronoun yo with great interest. Popular with the... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: The Best Pun IN THE WORLD!! Competition
I guess I've been a little obsessed with word puns here in the Wrap. We've covered punny names, punny store names, punny e-mail addresses, homophonic puns, Paging Doctor puns, and, of course, the hugely popular Tom Swifty puns. mental_floss's own Kara Kovalchik has a thing for puns, too, and after the success of our Tom Swifty contest, she suggested we run another punny contest, this time casting a wider net and opening it up to all and any word play. So I present you with... READ ON
12 Knock-offs that'll knock off your socks!
Everyone knows about Rolex knock-offs and Louis Vuitton imitations, but at least with those, the company doing the knocking-off goes to a lot of trouble to replicate the brand name, as well as the merchandise. Not so with these 12 hilarious imitations found recently while researching fake iPhones. Have you seen a wacky knock-off brand name not mentioned here? 1.... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: punny e-mail addresses
Generally, I'm not the sort of fella who a) cares who's on a group e-mail list or b) has the kind of time on his hands to waste scanning the CC field. But I did recently, only because the e-mail I'm referring to came from an intellectual celebrity and, I hoped, might include a bunch of other e-mail addresses from similar lofty minds. When I've received e-mails from important folk in the past, I've always been intrigued by their addresses. Like, if Einstein sent you an... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Daffynitions
In the 1929 Marx Brothers film, Cocoanuts, Groucho explains to Chico his plans to develop and auction some land in Florida. It's one of their most memorable scenes, achieving immortality with the following dialogue: Groucho: ''And here is the viaduct leading over to the mainland.'' Chico: ''Why a duck? Why a no chicken?'' All through the scene, Chico demands to know "Why a duck?" "“ his daffy take on the word viaduct. Daffynitions are punny definitions and, like Tom... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Tom Swifty Finalists!
[There's still time to get the vote out!] I've read through the nearly 200 Tom Swifties you all sent in for The Best Tom Swifty in the World!! competition. And let me tell you, VERY impressive. Honestly, some of the best Swifties I've ever seen! After the jump, you'll find my list of finalists (reprinted anonymously). Now it's time for you all to vote. As with our caption contests, all you have to do is drop your ballot in the comments. (And remember, only one vote per person, please.... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: The Best Tom Swifty in the World!!
It's been about a year and a half since I've mentioned Tom Swifties in the Word Wrap, so I thought I'd return to them once again for this giveaway because, well, they're just so endearing (and so much fun!). As I've said before, Lorrie Moore introduced me to these extraordinary puns in her story "Community Life" (one of the many brilliant shorts in her collection Birds of America). Some of the characters in the story are librarians and pass their downtime at... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: text-to-speech
I tend to be behind when it comes to technology. For this, I blame my parents, who, in 1985, were the absolute last ones in the neighborhood to get cable (anyone remember Prism?). Which is to say that my grandparent's dog was watching HBO before I was. Disclaimer on the table, I hope I'm ahead of the curve here by introducing you to OdioGo, the company pushing the technology that converts typed words on the Web to audio, either streaming through a flash-based plugin, or directly to you... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Mental Jotto
For those word game lovers out there who've had the privileged of knowing Leonard Bernstein (or any of his friends or family) or, alternatively, read my novel Behind Everyman, you already know how to play Mental Jotto. For those who didn't know him or his posse and haven't read my book (and judging by my Random House quarterly statements, that's most of you), it's time to learn one of my favorites. First the background: As far as I know, this variation of Jotto was invented by... READ ON
Weekend Word Wrap: Shakespeare, Ebonics and the verb to be revisited
I'm not sure if you can read the text in the picture below, but it's from a novel I'm presently writing. The sentence I'd like to bring to your attention is the one that reads: The person he was referring to was an acquaintance of mine... etc. For fun, I had MS Word go through the document and underline what it thought were mistakes. For those of you familiar with this feature, you already know that a green squiggly under a word or phrase means the application has taken issue... READ ON

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the only two men who signed the Declaration of Independence who also went on to become President of the United States.

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