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Unfortunately, new comments on posts on this site have been suspended because of my illness.

Previously approved comments will remain visible.

I deeply appreciate the erudition and energy of our commenters. Your contributions to this site have been invaluable. But I can no longer devote the time necessary to separate good comments from the hundreds of spam comments submitted.

Because Wordpress weirdly doesn't allow me to simply turn off comments en masse, comment boxes will still appear at the foot of posts.



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The Word Detective receives dozens of questions every week, so obviously we can’t promise to answer every question we receive.

If your question is answered, it will appear first in The Word Detective newspaper column and then, after a decent interval, it will be posted on this web page. This process could take from weeks to months.

In other words, we cannot answer questions via individual return e-mail, and if you are relying on a quick answer to complete that term paper due Monday, you’re barking up the wrong web site.

The good news is that if your question is used in a column, we will e-mail the column to you when it is distributed to newspapers (assuming that you have provided a valid e-mail address, of course).

Lastly, please check to be certain that the answer to your question is not in our extensive archives. Questions already answered will usually not be answered again.

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