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Oct 30, 2006
This week's theme
Ordinal words

This week's words
fifth column
fourth estate
third degree
second fiddle
first water

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with Anu Garg

"Everybody line up alphabetically according to your height." These words of Casey Stengel (1891-1975), US baseball player and manager, sum up nicely the deep human need to arrange things in order, to sort, classify, and enumerate them. This week we'll see phrases that characterize concepts, in descending order from fifth through first.

fifth column

(fifth KOL-uhm) Pronunciation Sound Clip

noun: A group of traitors acting in sympathy with their country's enemies.

[From Spanish quinta columna, from the column of supporters that General Mola claimed to have in Madrid while he was leading four columns of his army to invade the city during the Spanish Civil War.]

"Justice Aaron Ringera, you are starring in your own movie, and must be told to your face, that you are a bully of humility, a political warhorse, and a fifth column in the war against graft."
Steve Ochuodho; Ringera vs His Conscience; Kenya Times (Nairobi); Oct 14, 2006.

See more usage examples of fifth column in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages. -Jacques Deval, writer and director (1895-1972)

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