You can’t kid a kidder, but you can buffalo a Buffalo buffalo, as we found out in this past weekend’s brand-new episode.

We also enjoyed a magical puzzle and we explored:

  • taking a bath or a haircut in finance
  • uncanny valley
  • lazy man’s load
  • why English nouns don’t have gender
  • modern onomatopoeia
  • and more!

Visit the episode page and download the MP3 file.

Push Back

Responding to an older episode in which we discussed the confusion with “push back,” meaning to “postpone,” Emily in Indianapolis wrote to tell us how they do it in the military.

Instead of pushing back or forward, we push left or right, as if looking at a timeline with the earlier times on the left and increasing to the right. Since thinking of time linearly and from left to right is a very common Western concept, most people I ran into understood this terminology almost intuitively, even if they had never encountered it before.

Grant collected this citation for “left of boom” in 2007, which is a good example of what Emily is talking about. It’s a military term meaning “prior to an explosion.”

Thinky Linky

• Does changing the spelling of the N-word change how offensive or taboo it is? Janet Fuller looks into it.

• Where do we get the names of our seasons? Etymologist Anatoly Liberman knows. He invokes everything from the Joule-Lenz Law to Botticelli’s Primavera on his way to elucidation.

• Speaking of energy (see Joule-Lenz above), there are two different words erg in English, one measuring energy “a force of one dyne exerted over one centimetre – in other words, one gram centimetre-squared per second-squared, or 100 nanojoules.” The other is a great sea of dunes. Read more of what James Harbeck has written about them.

• We leave you with The Gnu Song, via linguist Arnold Zwicky.

I’m a g-nu,

I’m a g-nu,

The g-nicest work of g-nature in the zoo.

Peace and love,

Martha and Grant

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