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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster

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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

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catbird seat

September 27th, 2015

Episode 332 of 713 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 27, 2015 is: catbird seat \KAT-berd-SEET\ noun : a position of great prominence or advantage Examples: Susan found herself sitting in the catbird seat with lucrative offers from three potential employers in front of her. "For the first time since the economic recovery began six years ago, white-collar professionals with specialized skills in fields like technology, finance, engineering and software find themselves in the catbird seat." Nelson D. Schwartz, The New York Times, 25 July 2015 Did you know? "In the catbird seat" was among the numerous folksy expressions that legendary baseball broadcaster Red Barber used to delight listeners. Some say he invented the expression; others say that he dug it up from his Southern origins. But the truth may be far stranger than those rumors. In a 1942 short story titled "The Catbird Seat," James Thurber featured a character, Mrs. Barrows, who liked to use the phrase. Another character, Joey Hart, explained that Mrs. Barrows must have picked up the expression from Red Barber. To Red, according to Joey, "sitting in the catbird seat" meant "'sitting pretty,' like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him." But, according to Barber's daughter, it was only after Barber read Thurber's story that he started using "in the catbird seat" himself.

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