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Brown Chicken, Brown Cow


In our latest episode: How do rules of grammar develop, anyway? What's "tarantula juice"? How did "boondoggle" come to mean "a waste of taxpayer money"? Plus, funny movie mistakes, and a new spin on the slang phrase "brown chicken, brown cow":


"Boondoggle" originally was a name for that craft project undertaken by countless campers fashioning flat, plastic-covered thread into keychains and the like. As we noted in this episode, one synonym is "lanyard." Several of you wrote to tell us about other names.

Ken Wenman says while growing up in Maine, he and fellow campers called this craft "latigo." A listener from Northeastern Ohio wrote that there, the plastic thread is not "gimp," but "gimmick."

And John and Mary Benbow of San Diego shared this marvelous Billy Collins poem called "The Lanyard."


Video of Collins reading it:


Amid all the media coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden, word-watcher Nancy Friedman has a roundup of notable words and phrases in the news, such as "double tap." Did you notice any others of interest?


How's your penmanship? Fascinating piece in The New York Times about cursive writing and whether reports of its death are greatly exaggerated. (We think not.)


Writer's Digest just published its Top 10 websites for writers. Many are familiar, but you may find an amusing surprise or two.


BEHIND THE SCENES: This Tuesday, May 10, Grant will be one of the featured speakers at the TEDx conference in San Diego. The event's nearly sold out, but there'll be video online later, so we'll let you know when.

If you do go, be sure to say hello!



Martha and Grant

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