DiscoverA Way with Words: language, linguistics, and callers from all over
A Way with Words: language, linguistics, and callers from all over
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A Way with Words: language, linguistics, and callers from all over

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A Way with Words is a fun and funny radio show and podcast about language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about linguistics, slang, new words, jokes, riddles, word games, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, books, literature, folklore, and speaking and writing well. Email your language questions for the show to words@waywordradio.org. Or call with your questions toll-free *any* time in the U.S. and Canada at (877) 929-9673. From anywhere in the world: +1 (619) 800-4443. Hear all past shows for free: http://waywordradio.org/. Also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wayword.
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The autocomplete function on your phone comes in handy, of course. But is it changing the way we write and how linguists study language? Also, suppose you could invite any two authors, living or dead, to dinner. Who's on your guest list and why? Plus, anchors aweigh! The slang of sailors includes the kind of BOSS you'd better dodge, a barn you sail into, and the difference between the Baja Ha-Ha and the Baja Bash. All that, and a brain game about body parts, conked out and zonked out, synonyms for synonym, ferhunsed, chronopaguous, nemophilist, sea-kindly, smithereens, and standing on my own two pins. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
How do actors bring Shakespeare's lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of people and places at certain points. That technique is called billboarding. And: Anyone for an alphabet game? A pangram is a sentence that uses EVERY letter of the alphabet at least once. There's the one about the quick, brown fox, of course. But there's a whole world of others, including pangrams about Brexit, emoji, and a pop singer behaving, well ... badly. Plus sworping, agga forti, spelling out letters, the uncertain etymology of kazoo, larruping, the hairy eyeball, where the woodbine twineth, and a brain teaser based on characters that might have been in a Disney movie. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
In the 15th century, the word respair meant "to have hope again." Although this word fell out of use, it's among dozens collected in a new book of soothing vocabulary for troubled times. Plus, baseball slang: If a batter doesn't pour the pine," an outfielder may snag a can of corn, or "an easily caught fly ball." And the 1960s TV show "Laugh-In" spawned lots of catchphrases, such as Sock it to me, The devil made me do it, and You bet your sweet bippy. Don't know them? Well, Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls! Plus tiffin, worldcraft, cultellation, backslash vs. forward slash, come-heres, bi-weekly, and a witty word game that's much ado about nothing. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. They refer to a stunt, for example, as a gag. Across the country in Brooklyn, the slang term brick means "cold," and dumb brick means "really cold." Plus: the East and Central African tradition that distinguishes between ancestors who remain alive in living memory, and all the rest who have receded into the vast ocean of history. In this sense, all of us are moving toward the past, not away from it. Plus, the Indiana town that was named incorrectly because of a bureaucratic mixup. The town's name? Correct. Also, a brain game with words big and little, slushburger vs. sloppy joe, go fry ice, fracas, beat the band, sensational spelling, heavier than a dead minister, and telling porkies. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
We asked for your thoughts about whether cursive writing should be taught in schools -- and you replied with a resounding "Yes!" Here's why: Cursive helps develop fine motor skills, improves mental focus, and lets you read old handwritten letters and other documents. Plus: finding your way to a more nuanced understanding of language; the more you know about linguistic diversity, the more you embrace those differences rather than criticize them. Finally, a brain game using translations of Native American words for lunar months. During which month would you see a Strawberry Moon? Plus newstalgia, fauxstalgia, lethologica, by and large, pank, yay vs. yea, collywobbles, and carlymarbles. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Asthenosphere, a geologist's term for the molten layer beneath the earth's crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece to the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Plus: What the heck is a dogberg? It's when a dog runs into you and knocks you over. This bit of slang was inspired by a professional wrestler who finished off his opponents in a similar fashion. Finally, if you're vibing with someone, you're getting along just great. The idea of vibing goes way back in history, and is well worth the effort to suss out. All that, and pretty eggs, Rhode Island dressing, how to pronounce biopic, multiple modals, Mr. Can vs. Mr. Can't, jawn, moded, and a brain teaser for movie lovers. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don't want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in truth. To spill the T means to pass along truthful information. Plus, some delicious Italian idioms involving food. The Italian phrase that literally translates Eat the soup or jump out the window! means Take it or leave it, and a phrase that translates as We don't fry with water around here! means We don't do things halfway! Also: why carbonated beverages go by various names, including soda, pop, and coke, depending on what part of the country you're from. Plus: fill your boots, bangorrhea, cotton to, and howdy; milkshakes, frappes, velvets, and cabinets; push-ups, press-ups and lagartijas; the Spanish origin of the word alligator, don't break my plate or saw off my bench, a takeoff quiz, FOMO after death, and much more. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange assignment: find a monarch caterpillar. The result? A memorable lesson in the miracle of metamorphosis. Plus, the story behind the slang expression Word!, meaning "Believe me!" The original version involved the idea that a person's word was their bond. And the expression Empty wagons make the most noise suggests that the person who boasts the loudest may actually be the least knowledgeable. It's a phrase that's had many versions over the centuries -- including one that goes all the way back to ancient Rome! All that, and nebby, beat-feeting, red-headed stepchild, corotole, undermine, fankle, and a wacky puzzle about Greek names. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
When you had sleepovers as a child, what did you call the makeshift beds you made on the floor? In some places, you call those bedclothes and blankets a pallet. This word comes from an old term for "straw." And: What's the story behind the bedtime admonition "Sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite"? Plus, when grownups are talking about sex or money, they may remind each other that "little pitchers have big ears." It's a reference to the ear-shaped handle on a jug, and the knack kids have for picking up on adult topics and then spilling that new knowledge elsewhere. Plus, lick the calf over, lady locks, dirty clothes vs. laundry, towhead, and build a coffee. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms – that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub called a jacuzzi. And the word silhouette commemorates a penny-pinching treasury secretary who lasted only a few months in office and was associated with these shadow portraits. Also, if the words strubbly, briggling, and wabashing aren’t already in your vocabulary, they should be – if only because they’re so much fun to say. Only one of them refers to messy, tousled hair. Plus: wing it, versing, cock one’s strumples, keep your powder dry, and embeverage. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
The emotional appeal of handwriting and the emotional reveal of animal phrases. Should children be taught cursive writing in school, or is their time better spent studying other things? A handwritten note and a typed one may use the very same words, but handwritten version may seem much more intimate. Plus, English is full of grisly expressions about animals, such as "there's more than one way to skin a cat" and "until the last dog is hung." The attitudes these sayings reflect aren't so prevalent today, but the phrases live on. Finally, the centuries-old story of the mall in "shopping mall." Plus, agloo, dropmeal, tantony pig, insidious ruses, yen, and a commode you wear on your head. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Some TV commercials launch catchphrases that stick around long after the original ads. The exclamation Good stuff, Maynard! is still a compliment almost 40 years after it was used in a commercial for Malt-O-Meal hot cereal. And: what do you call that room where the whole family gathers? The family room? The den? The TV room? Names for that part of a home go in and out of fashion. Finally, if you're suffering from writer's block, try going easy on yourself for a while. Sometimes a writer's imagination needs to lie fallow in order to become fertile again. Plus, a trivia test about domain names, criminently and other minced oaths, pure-D vs. pure-T, deviled eggs vs. dressed eggs, pixelated vs. pixilated, how to pronounce aegis, and I got the Motts! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. Also, the best writers create luscious, long sentences using the same principles that make for a musician's melodious phrasing or a tightrope walker's measured steps. Finally, want to say something is wild and crazy in Norwegian? You can use a slang phrase that translates as "That's totally Texas!" Plus happenstance, underwear euphemisms, pooh-pooh, scrappy, fret, gedunk, tartar sauce, antejentacular, and the many ways to pronounce the word experiment. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she was from another country, not only because of how she spoke, but also how she looked. Sometimes our perception of other people's accents have more to do with social context than with any real dialect features. And: did you ever wonder if there was a punctuation mark to indicate sarcasm? You're not alone! There are lots of creative solutions. Finally, there's a term in music to describe someone who is a professional whistler. That word is "puccalo." Stay tuned for a tune as a puccalo shows off her craft. Plus play it by ear vs. play it by year, trash vs. garbage, carriwitchet, langiappe, puccalo, sartalics, and a confounding brain teaser about compound synonyms. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Chances are you recognize the expressions Judgment Day and the root of all evil as phrases from the Bible. There are many others, though, some of which may surprise you: the powers that be and bottomless pit first appeared in scripture. Plus, there's a term for when the language of a minority is adopted by the majority. When, for example, expressions from drag culture and hip-hop go mainstream, they're said to have covert prestige. And the language of proxemics: how architects design spaces to bring people together or help them keep their distance. All that, and Segway vs. segue, part and parcel, Land of Nod, hue and cry, on the razzle, train of thought, and a special Swedish word for a special place of refuge. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry -- some of which is collected in the anthology England: Poems from a School. Also, new language among healthcare professionals: the term cohorting describes the act of grouping patients with COVID-19 in designated facilities. But what's the word for reintegrating them into the general patient population after treatment. Decohorting, maybe? Finally, who can resist all those independent bookstores with tantalizing names like Moon Palace and Mysterious Galaxy? Also, black-hearted buzzard, nesh, livid, muckle, Fiddler's Green, Come go home with us, and a confounding puzzle about words containing the letters C-O-N. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
We have books that should be on every language lover's wish list, plus a couple of recommendations for history buffs. Plus: how did the word boondoggle come to denote a wasteful project? The answer involves the Boy Scouts, a baby, a craft project, and a city council meeting. Plus, wordplay with palindromes. Instead of reversing just individual letters, some palindromes reverse entire words! Like this one: You can cage a swallow, but you can't swallow a cage, can you? Also, squeaky clean, Dad, icebox, search it up, pretend vs. pretentious, toe-counting rhymes, comb the giraffe, and a Korean song about carrots. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Are there words and phrases that you misunderstood for an embarrassingly long time? Maybe you thought that money laundering literally meant washing drug-laced dollar bills, or that AM radio stations only broadcast in the morning? A Twitter thread prompts those and other funny confessions. And: a moving new memoir by Kansas writer Sarah Smarsh touches on the connection between vocabulary and class. Plus, the inventive language of writer David Foster Wallace: Even if you've never heard the term "nose-pore-range," you can probably guess what it means. Also, ilk, how to pronounce Gemini, fart in a mitten, greebles, make over, sploot, and to boot.   Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Cherry Bombs (#1551)

Cherry Bombs (#1551)

2020-07-2751:32

An ornithologist says there's a growing movement to change the name of a pink-footed bird currently called the flesh-footed shearwater. The movement reflects a growing understanding that using flesh-colored for "pink" fails to acknowledge the full range of human skin color. Plus, is hooligan an anti-Irish slur? Some people might perceive it that way, but originally the word itself simply referred to the name of a particular gang in London. Finally, book recommendations to keep our minds and hearts full: Joan Didion essays and a novel by Affrilachian poet Crystal Wilkinson. Plus, cherry bumps, al fresco, en plein air, frivol, logy, pigeon-toed vs. duck-footed, hankering, unbolted, a socially distanced brain game, and Who licked the red off of your candy? Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term was adapted into English from Dutch, and means "an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric." And: What's your relationship with the books on your shelves? Do the ones you haven't read yet make you feel guilty -- or inspired? Finally, we're all used to fairy tales that start with the words "Once upon a time." Not so with Korean folktales, which sometimes begin with the beguiling phrase "In the old days, when tigers used to smoke…" Plus, excelsior, oxtercog, wharfinger, minuend, awesome vs. awful, Good Googly Moogly, and eating crackers in bed. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
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Comments (22)

MerandaMedia

This is my first comment, words cannot express how grateful I am to have come across the show, obviously English is not my first language, and the moment I listened to the podcast first time, it was love at first listen. From this episode, vibe and vibing are the words that I am interested in.

Nov 23rd
Reply

Mariejose

Why do Americans say "time period"? And what's up with "it will get worse before it gets better"? Two questions in my list for Martha and Grant

Jul 12th
Reply

Kelsey Wood

the little boy who called in asking about the term loose cannon was so adorable!

Jun 9th
Reply

Ali

Hi, I'm Ali and I'm a non-native English speaker, newly came across this podcast in an article and actually found that awesome although naturally my knowledge of English is not as deep as yours. The root of words, their meanings and too many words which are even new to native speakers, that really feels amazing. just wanted to say its wonderful show and good luck guys👍

Jun 1st
Reply

Foreverlee

ooh delight! The squash story!!!! the 😁🥰 The caller was the best and reminds me of how I want to be in the future. You are awesome, Mary Gordon. Blessings to you all. Love the poem. I Love words, thanks so much.

Feb 17th
Reply

Mary Gatlin Bell

Never heard kimble. In Minneapolis in the '60s-'70s, the walk your caller describe was called " the "pimp limp". with that in mind I was taken aback to see Obama doing a modified version, wonder if a political strategist suggested it as a way to seem "blacker", or if he picked it up in his community organizing days. Back in the day no one would decide doing the pimp limp would enhance their image.

Aug 19th
Reply (1)

Jim123bcb HD

I love the show, I love learning more about language in general <3

Jul 8th
Reply

East End Hitchhiker

Great show love it!

May 8th
Reply

Tomasz Jurewicz

Just sploot and listen to this show! It's extremely informative and entertaining.

Dec 20th
Reply

Baby Cakes

When you do the quizzes can you please give a 5 to 10 second pause so we can play along with you both! Your both to fast for us novices out here.

Dec 16th
Reply

Baby Cakes

I think hope is used in Driving Miss Daisy.

Dec 11th
Reply

Baby Cakes

There is still turnpikes in OK on I44 going to Tulsa and on another hwy on the way to OK city.

Dec 11th
Reply

Alisha Truemper

great episode!

Oct 22nd
Reply

Oso Wallman

Chee yoo on Moana

Jun 24th
Reply

Kieron Finn

Binning uni https://www.instagram.com/p/Bjy7Q7wgSBX/njz iij

Jun 9th
Reply

Jonathan Goodman

mx

Apr 14th
Reply

Jonathan Goodman

thanks v. g

Apr 14th
Reply

Kestrels Call

Thank you! I was curious about what Bones meant by flop sweat!

Feb 1st
Reply

Phúc Anh Trần Nguyễn

Great!

Dec 22nd
Reply

Knew Yennaration

The X could be an example of extended arms wanting a hug and the O could be the shape of the mouth

Sep 5th
Reply
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