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Welcome to The Mad Logophile. Here, we explore words; their origins, evolution, usage. Words are alive; they are born, they change and, sometimes, they die. They are our principal tool for communicating with one another. There are one million words in the English language yet only an estimated 171,476 words are in common current use. As a logophile, I enjoy discovering new words, using them and learning about their origins.

Today we continue our exploration of words that describe words and how we use them. So let's get right to business...

Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols is what we call language. According to Ethnologue, there are currently 6,912 living languages, defined as languages that people speak today.

A lect is a social or regional variety of speech within a community.

You know how sometimes you the can't remember a word or put your finger on the right word? The technical term for that oh yes, lethologica.

The fundamental unit of a language is a lexeme. Find, finds, found, and finding are forms of the English lexeme find.

To lexicalize is to to convert an affix, a phrase, etc. into a word. If you do word puzzles, you have no doubt come across the suffix --ism as a clue. the suffix has become a word itself, the noun ism.

The writing, editing, or compiling of dictionaries is known as lexicography. Come to think of it, this may be what I'm doing in these diaries.... Those who love dictionaries and similar books (or diaries?) is a lexicomane or, if you go so far as to collect them, a lexiconophilist.

The defining of words is called lexigraphy. This term is also used for the definitions themselves.

People who use big words to impress or are bombastic or pretentious in their use of words are lexiphanic.

A lexicon can be the vocabulary of a person, group, subject, or language. It also defines a word book describing language (including definitions) or a dictionary.

A defamatory statement or representation especially in the form of written or printed words that injures an individual's reputation or otherwise exposes him or her to public contempt is the legal definition of libel.

The library can be the building which houses a collection of books. It is also the collection itself or any set of things similar to a library in appearance, function, or organization. The librarian is the keeper of that collection (who may or may not go in search of legendary objects).

If you read in bed, you are a librocubicularist. You are also in good company.

The slang or jargon of a particular group is its lingo. Every specialized field has a lingo. Language that is unintelligible or unfamiliar can also be referred to as lingo. In computing, lingo is an animation scripting language.

Linguipotence is mastery of of languages. If you are only skilled at languages, you are merely linguished. If you are good at talking (meaning doing a lot of it), you are a simply linguacious.  

A linguist or linguister is "a master of language, one who uses his tongue freely." Less floridly, it is a student of languages.

Literature is a body of written works. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.

A word adopted from another language and completely or partially naturalized is a loanword. Some examples would be macho, hors d'oeuvre and zeitgeist.

Locution is a particular word, phrase, or expression that is used by a particular person or group. It can also refer to a style of speaking or one's phraseology.

Logodaedaly is what we might call "a way with words." A person who has this gift is called a logodaedalist.

I think I can safely say that anyone who reads these diaries is logofascinated or "fascinated by words." We might even be accused of logolatry. Perhaps we are logogogues (word experts). But, mad or not, we are all logophiles.

Logology is the pursuit of word puzzles. It also means "the science of words."

Someone who is very talkative is said to be loquacious. A wordy book, play, etc. can also be said to be loquacious.

A capital letter is known as a majuscule, while a lower case letter is a minuscule.

Mrs. Malaprop, a character in The Rivals, a play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, gave us the malapropism. This is the usually comical misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of  title=similar sound or meaning. Ol' Dubya was good at coming up with these: "We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile."

A mantra is a sacred utterance (syllable, word, or verse) that is considered to possess mystical or spiritual efficacy. Often in Sanskrit, it is to be recited or sung for the purpose of intensifying the action of the Spirit of God in man. The most well-known mantra is Om Mani Padme Hum. Any commonly repeated word or phrase can be a mantra of a more mundane kind (ask your doctor, yes we can).

A succinct formulation of a fundamental principle, general truth, or rule of conduct is a maxim. Life is uncertain, eat dessert first is an example.

If you use contrasting words to describe a whole, such as head to toe or fore and aft, that is a merism.

Metallege is the formation of a new word by transposing letters of an existing word. Unclear from nuclear, for example.

A metalexicographer is someone who conceives of or theorizes about dictionaries. I wonder how hard that field is to break into?

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another is a metaphor.  A metaphor makes an implicit comparison: A shadow of his former self, a smile like the noonday sun, a basket full of dreams.

A word-for-word translation is a metaphrase. By contrast, an encapsulation of something, trying to relate its general meaning is a paraphrase.

Metathesis is the transposition within a word of letters, sounds, or syllables. One popular example is nucular rather than nuclear.

A metonymy is a figure of speech in which the name of an object or concept is replaced with a word closely related to or suggested by the original, as crown to mean king/queen or Washington to mean the government. Authors can be a metonym for their work; I read Stephen King.

A miranym is a word between two opposites. Liberal/Centrist/Conservative or hot/lukewarm/cold are examples.

Taking a word in the wrong sense is misacceptation. For example, if I were to describe a bridle but was misunderstood as bridal, that would cause some confusion.

A device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering is a mnemonic (named after the Greek goddess of memory, Mnemosyne). Often, the mnemonic will stay in your memory long after you've forgot what it was meant to help you remember. I still recall the mnemonic for the cranial nerves (On Old Olympus' Towering Top A Finn And German Viewed A Hill) but that doesn't help me remember all the nerves!

If you know only one language, you are a monoglot. This can also describe a book or other work that is composed in only one language.

A mononym is a name that consists of only one word. Madonna or Prince are mononyms.

Words with only one syllable are (no, one, show) are monosyllabic. This can also apply to a vocabulary of short, small words or speech using the same.

A morpheme is a meaningful linguistic unit consisting of a word or a word element that cannot be divided into smaller meaningful parts. Morphemes include prefixes and suffixes as well as words. English words can be simple (one morpheme only: man, dog, tree) or compound (black+board, doll+house, dis+establish+ment+ary+an+ism). The meaning expressed by a morpheme is called a sememe.

If you were to study the results of morphemes, you would be practicing morphology: the study of the structure and form of words in language or a language.

A maxim adopted as a guide to one's conduct is a motto. A motto can also be a word or phrase attached to an object, such as E Pluribus Unum on our currency.

A name is technically defined as "a word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others." It has many more meanings from one's reputation (her good name) to designating someone (he named her for supervisor) to accusation (naming names). It can be a noun, verb, adjective or idiom.

To tell a story or give an account of events is to narrate. The person doing the speaking is a narrator.

Is your handwriting very small and neat? Then it is called niggle.

The system of names used in science is nomenclature. More specifically, it is procedure of assigning names to the kinds and groups of organisms listed in a taxonomic classification.

Notation is any system of figures or symbols used in a specialized field. These are used to represent numbers, quantities, tones, or values.

A mixture of languages is an ollapod. An ollapodism is a sentence made up of words from different languages. Pidgin dialects are typically ollapod. That's ono uhu, Bra, mahalo! would be an example.

The naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it is onomatopoeia. This may also refer to the use of onomatopoetic words. There is a great songby Todd Rundgren called Onomatopoeia that includes a great variety of such words. Buzz, hiccup, hiss, click....
A scientific or technical name is an onym. As a suffix, it denotes name or naming.

An oxymoron is a rhetorical device in which two seemingly contradictory words are used together for effect. Sometimes, it can be accidental. That's when they are funniest, IMHO. A few favorites are: military intelligence, gourmet pizza, work party and Microsoft Works.

A word that has a heavy stress accent on its last syllable is an oxytone. Negligee, correct and reward are examples. A paroxytone is stressed on the penultimate syllable. A proparoxytone is stressed on the antepenultimate syllable.

A palindrome is a word, number, sentence, or verse that reads the same backward or forward. One famous palindrome is A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! And all know that a palindrome of Bolton is Notlob.

A complete or comprehensive digest on any topic is a pandect. It comes to us from the Pandects, a digest of Roman civil law, compiled for the emperor Justinian in the sixth century A.D.

A pangram is a sentence that contains all letters of the alphabet (aka as holalphabetic sentences). The best know is The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.

A very clear or typical example is a paradigm. Also, all of the forms of a word constitute its paradigm. When I give an example like boy, boy's, boys, boys', I have given a paradigm of a paradigm.

The paragraph is a distinct portion of written or printed matter dealing with a particular idea. They usually begin with an indentation on a new line. It is usually composed of several sentences that together develop one central idea. In editing, the mark used to denote a paragraph is called a pilcrow.

Paralanguage consists of vocal features that accompany speech and contribute to communication. Though this is not generally considered to be part of the language system, it does a great deal to facilitate communication. This is a big problem online, where these indicators are absent.

An inability to recall the meanings of common words is known as paramnesia. Makes you wonder if this is an epidemic among certain town hall attendees....

Do you have a fancy signature? Maybe you add a little flourish at the end of it. If so, you use a paraph. You individualist, you!

The formation of words by a combination of compounding and adding an affix is called parasynthesis. One can also do so by adding a prefix and a suffix to a root word. Hotheaded is an example of the former while deBaathification would be an example of the latter.

Joining clauses or phrases without the use of a conjunctions is parataxis. I came, I saw, I conquered is an example.

Parnassus is a fancy name for a collection of poetry.

A satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or music is called a parody. If you have read Bored Of The Rings or listened to Weird Al songs, you are familiar with this form of comedy.

Paronyms are words which are almost homonyms, but have slight differences in spelling or pronunciation and have different meanings. Collision and collusion, affect and effect or deprecate and depreciate are all good examples.

Remember having to diagram sentences in school? Technically, you were made to parse them. Either way, I didn't enjoy it.

A patois is a form of dialect. Typically, it is a regional diversion. Cajun French is a patois.

Many of us logophiles have been accused of being pedantic. Really? I am not "Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules".... okay, I'll go sit in the corner now.

Words and phrases are pejorative if they imply disapproval or contempt. Calling someone a Republican used to be a pejorative among every one at one time. Slang insults that come to be used as non-pejorative standard words go through a process known as amelioration.

Periphrasis is using a roundabout or indirect manner of writing or speaking or longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter form of expression. When you hear someone say, at this moment in time instead of now, you know they are the victims of periphrasis.

If you break an oath or promise, you have committed perjury. Though mostly a legal term, it can also be applied to oaths outside of the courtroom.

Searching through dictionaries for cool words? You are perquesting. It's okay, I bet we all do it.

An adjective that is usually defined as "of or pertaining to" is a pertainym. Acoustic or philatelic are examples. As is the next word....

Phatic means of relating to speech used to share feelings or to establish a mood of sociability rather than to communicate information or ideas. Small talk would fit into this description: Lovely weather we're having, eh?
The very smallest linguistic unit is a phememe. These would be one-letter, like a or u.

Philobiblist is a fancy way of calling someone a book lover. The study of books is philology.

In describing a speech sound shared by a set of echoic or symbolic words, we would use the adjective phonesthemic. Words that start with the same sound like snort, snap, snipe, etc. are an example.

A phrase can be part of a sentence. It can be the way you express yourself. And, in speaking, it is a short sequence of words ending in a pause.

A redundant phrase or expression is a pleonasm. Free gift or noon time are examples (the latter is often used by a local anchor and makes me crazy).

Ploce is the repetition of a word or phrase to gain special emphasis or to indicate an extension of meaning. For example, I yam what I yam - Popeye.

Speech sounds that are produced by closing the mouth and then expelling air (b,d or p) are called plosives.

Poecilonym is a big word for a synonym. Using several names for one thing (TV, television, boob tube, TV machine) is poecilonymy. The object with many names would be the polynym.

To poeteeze is to write poetry.

A text that disputes something is a polemic. They are often written specifically to dispute or refute a position or theory that is widely viewed to be beyond reproach. Its opposite would be an apologia.

Someone who can speak several languages is a polyglot.

Know your blowhards! If a person talks about everything, they are polyloquent. If they talk about only one thing, they are omniloquent. If the polylogize in either way, they are talking too much.

Something that has a variety of meanings is polysemous. Table and book are polysemous words.

A portmanteau is the combination of two or more words to make a new word. Motel is a portmanteau of motor and hotel. Netiquette (net + etiquette), infomercial (information + commercial) and Frankenfood (Frankenstein + food) are other examples.

A postpositive word is one placed after another word to modify it. Princess Royal, body politic and worst choice imaginable are examples.

Words relating to begging or supplication are precative. In writing, precative mood is a grammatical mood which signifies requests. Could you please...?

A précis is a concise summary. The Rescue Rangers write these every night when they describe and sum up the diaries they've rescued.

A private language is an exclusive one which is unintelligible to a restricted group of people. A similar idea is idioglossia, which is the private language that identical twins sometimes create to communicate solely with one another.

A fancy word for an introduction, preface or preamble is proem. This is also known as an exordium, especially when relating to a speech.

A prolegomenon is a formal essay introducing a work of considerable length or complexity. The purpose of a prolegomenon is to offer advance understanding of a subject.

Communications to the public that are designed to influence opinion are propaganda. Flags, monuments, oratory, and publications are used consciously and deliberately to influence group attitudes; all other functions are secondary. It has a long history, starting with the College of Propaganda, which was established by Pope Urban VIII for the education of priests for foreign missions. It became much less innocent over the years, however, in the hands of men like Torquemada and Adolf Hitler.

Prosody is the study of the elements of language, especially meter, that contribute to rhythmic and acoustic effects in poetry. The basis of this is the classification of verse according to the syllable stress of its lines. It also refers to a specific poet's distinctive style.

A proto-language is a language which was the common ancestor of related languages. These languages together form a language family. For example, Latin is the proto-language of the Romance languages of Italian, Spanish and French.

A short statement of wisdom or advice that has passed into general use is a proverb. They generally refer to common experience and are often expressed in metaphor, alliteration, or rhyme. Benjamin Franklin wrote many that are still in use: A penny saved is a penny earned and Early to be and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise are but two examples.

A pseudonym is a fictitious name. Often used by authors to hide their identity, it is also known as a pen name.

For such a short word, pun has a complex definition...

use of words, usually humorous, based on (a) the several meanings of one word, (b) a similarity of meaning between words that are pronounced the same, or (c) the difference in meanings between two words pronounced the same and spelled somewhat similarly

Puns are a bone of contention with some people, who find them childish or simplistic. But puns can be quite sophisticated. Witness this example by no less than Jesus himself: "Thou art Peter (Gr. Petros), and upon this rock (Gr. petra) I will build my church." I rest my case.

A query is much more than just a question. It can be a form of intense questioning, a line of inquiry or a questioning study of a subject.

Who among us did not dread the teacher's words, "Pop quiz!"? This informal test or examination of a student or class has got a bad rap, IMHO. Personally, I enjoy quizzes but I'm no longer being graded so I suppose that doesn't count for much.

A quotation is something we quote. Ideally, one should use quote as a verb and quotation as a noun. Reading books of quotations is a favorite pastime for me. Anyone else?

The QWERTY layout of the keyboard before you appeared in 1887. It is also known as the Sholes keyboard after the man who invented it. It was the industry standard for quite a long time until the Dvorak or non-US-ASCII layouts or space-cadet keyboard or APL keyboards made their appearances. title=

A rebus is a representation of words in the form of pictures or symbols, often presented as a puzzle. The game show Concentration famously used them.

Did you know that the two sides of the pages in a book have names? They do: recto is the term for the right-hand page and verso describes the left-hand page.

To redact is to prepare a text for publication or to draw up a statement. Of course, that may mean blacking out sections of it.

You know how Bart Simpson is always writing something over and over on the blackboard? He is rescribing. To rescribe is to write over, either repeating or re-writing.

A retronym is a word or phrase created because an existing term that was once used alone needs to be distinguished from a term referring to a new development. A digital watch is a good example. Or, in honor of the recent passing of the man who caused us to need this retronym, acoustic guitar.

A backward dictionary is a reversicon. It has the definitions first, leading up to the head word. These are often used in specific areas of knowledge such as medicine.

Rhematic pertains to the formation of words or the construction of sentences.

The art of speaking or writing effectively is rhetoric. This also refers to specialized knowledge of literary uses of language in prose or verse. In oratory, it is the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience (something our POTUS is pretty good at). Rhetorical can describe any of these as well as words, phrases or questions used for style or effect. Less commonly, it can describe bombast.  

Rubric is the part of a manuscript or book that appears in decorative red lettering or is otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text. The best example of this is the Red-Letter Bible.

Sarcasm is one of those things that is hard to pin down. Oh sure, there is a dictionary definition of sarcasm: A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound or A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule. But sometimes identifying sarcasm can be difficult, particularly in online communications. That's good news for John McCain is a popular example. Taken out of context, it could be misunderstood quite easily. Sarcasm is almost completely contextual.

Sarcasm is a form of satire. Being applied to any work of literature or art whose objective is ridicule, it is more easily recognized than defined. Aristophanes, Chaucer and Swift certainly understood it. Many attempt it but few shine at it.

Scribatious describes someone who is good at writing and fond of doing it. One might say that some of our more prolific diarists here are quite scribatious.

Someone who writes is a scribe (a neutral word as opposed to the one above). Script is what they produce, particularly if it is cursive handwriting. A manuscript, document, play, screenplay or teleplay is also known as a script. The place where they would be stored is a scriptorium, a room where manuscripts are stored, read, or copied.

Semantics is the study of meaning in language. The meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form can often be subjective. Semantics is commonly used to refer to a trivial point or distinction that revolves around mere words rather than significant issues. In this context, it can be the basis of many a disagreement.

The sentence is the basic building block of writing. To be a complete sentence, it has a subject that is expressed or, as in imperative sentences, understood and a predicate that contains at least one finite verb.

The fine line finishing off the main strokes of a letter is the serif. Fonts that do not have these lines are called sans-serif. This site uses a sans-serif font (Arial?). Part of classical calligraphy is learning how to make serifs properly.

If you are fond of using long words, you are sesquipedalian. Guess you've got me pegged now, eh?

Sometimes, when reading (especially if there are quotations involved) you may come across this: (sic). It means thus and is usually written parenthetically to denote that a word, phrase, etc. has been written intentionally or has been quoted verbatim. The item in question may appear strange or incorrect and this is one way the author can indicate that s/he actually does know how to spell moron.

A sidebar is a distinct section of a page, as in a book or magazine, that amplifies or highlights the main text. The Daily Show's America; The Book uses this convention to great (and hilarious) effect.

A sigil is a symbol or letter that is used as a seal. It also describes a magical symbol, letter or word.

The figure of speech involving a comparison between two unlike entities is a simile. Unlike in a metaphor, the comparison is explicit: This server is as slow as molasses.

Slander is sometimes the object of a misunderstanding of law. In common law, written defamation was libel and spoken defamation was slander. Nowadays the distinctions are not as clear. Permanent forms of defamation, such as the written or pictorial, are usually called libel, while the spoken or gestured forms are called slander.

Nonstandard vocabulary of which is very informal and is usually not limited to one region or area is slang. This can include new or shortened words and words used out of context. We have talked about modern slang and British slang in previous diaries.

A slogan is a motto or phrase used in a political, commercial, religious and other context. The point is that it is a repetitive expression of an idea or purpose. Most modern slogans are commercial in nature: You deserve a break today, It's the real thing and Just do it are a few examples.

A term of disparagement is a slur: you Sir, are a twit! Slur can also describe unclear speech, especially of the inebriated.

Snark is a portmanteau of "snide" and "remark." This form of biting humor or wit, is commonly used to verbally attack someone or something. Here in the DK community, snark is an art form. The best snark, IMHO, is that which makes the reader wonder if it is true.

An affectionate or humorous nickname is a sobriquet. It is usually bestowed by others and becomes familiar enough such that it can be used in place of a real name without the need of explanation. For example, Genghis Khan is rarely recognized now by his original name Temüjin but almost exclusively is know by his sobriquet.

A solecism is a misapplication of words or an expression opposed to the laws of syntax. Perhaps the best example of solecisms is found on the LOLcats website.

The spoonerism is derived from the name of William Archibald Spooner, a distinguished Anglican clergyman and warden of New College, Oxford. His nervous disposition would often cause him to reverse the initial letters or syllables of two or more words: a blushing crow or a hall tat.

The study of the development of legends and tales is called storiology. That makes sense as a story is a legend or tale.

Someone who babbles or indulges in silly talk is stultiloquent. If the silly talk is also vain in nature, they are vaniloquent.

Suppletion is the use of an unrelated form to complete a paradigm. For example, the past tense went of the verb go, goes, going, gone.

One's surname is their family name, as distinguished from a given name. It can also refer to a name added to a person's name (indicating a circumstance of birth or a characteristic or an achievement), as in King Edward the Confessor.

A swapword is a compound word in which the first and last syllable can be swapped to make a new word.

As opposed to a dictionary, which is a collection of words, a syllabary is a collection of symbols. Each symbol represents a syllable and they are put together to write a language. Chinese and Japanese are examples of a syllabary language.

A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion is syllogism. It forms the core of the body of Western logical thought. Basically, it boils down to: if A=B and B=C, then A=C.

Used often in poetry, syncope is the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sounds from the middle. Examples are ne'er, o'er and e'vn.

Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part. Also the special for the general or the general for the special. An example of the former is boots on the ground for soldiers deployed. Calling a rich man Croesus is an example of the latter use. It's also an interesting recent film.

A dictionary of synonyms is a synonymicon. Also know as a thesaurus.

Syntax is the sequence in which words are put together to form sentences. It is also the study of or a book about same.

The art or practice of rapid writing or shorthand is called tachygraphy.

A tautonym is a binomial scientific name in which the name of the genus and that of the species are identical. Gorilla gorilla and Larix larix are two examples. These speciaes got those names via taxonomy, he classification of organisms into a hierarchy of groupings.

The vocabulary of technical terms used in a particular field, subject, science, or art is its terminology. It is also the study of nomenclature.

A declaration by a witness under oath is testimony. In the context of religion, testimony refers to the tablets Moses was given and the ark they were stored in. It can also describe a public declaration regarding a religious experience.

A small diacritic mark, such as an accent, vowel mark, or dot over an i is known as a tittle. Wipe that smirk off your face, you pervert! title=

A tome is a a very heavy, large, or learned book. It can also describe a volume forming a part of a larger work, such as one volume of an encyclopedia.

Something named after a place is a toponym. We have discussed them in a previous diary.

To translate can mean to change from one language into another or to to explain in terms that can be more easily understood.

The original text of a literary work is the urtext. It is often used in a metaphorical fashion to refer to a primitive, seminal, or prototypical example of an artistic genre or the basis of an ideological movement.

To repeat words or phrases, usually unconsciously, is to verbigerate. John McCain's use of my friends is a good example.

The vernacular is the native speech or language of a place. It also describes speaking or writing using plain, everyday language. The vernacular is also the language or vocabulary peculiar to a class or profession. The common name of any species is its vernacular.

The sum of words used or understood by you is your vocabulary. It is any repertoire of communication, including art, dance, music, architecture, etc. A list or collection of the words or phrases of a language, technical field, or profession is its vocabulary. Your vocabulation is your selection and use of words. The correct pronunciation of same is voculation. If you are good at all of this, you could be said to be voluble.

A vow is a solemn oath, usually given in the presence of a deity or its chosen representative. Any pledge, or personal commitment or solemn promise made committing oneself to an act, service, or condition is considered a vow. Marriage vows and the vows taken by clergy are examples.

All of these diaries and our interest in them boil down to one thing; words. Technically, a word is

a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.

But we know that they are so much more. When we add all of these things we've been discussing this week and last week, we get things that can work and play, hurt and heal. We know that words are powerful things and we love and appreciate them.

Yidlish, as we learn from plf, is using Yiddish words or schemes in English. Like we should not?


Well, that's the end of it. I'm sure I have left some words off. Or maybe there is more to say about one of the above. Please speak out...

Originally posted to The Way The Wind Blows on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:05 PM PDT.


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