Rick calls from Rouses Point, New York, to ask about the etymology of the phrase to hang for a sheep as for a lamb, meaning to go for broke or to go all out. The answer involves the old tradition of capital punishment for poaching animals. Given the same risk, one might as well steal the animal that’s more valuable. There’s a similar Scots proverb that goes as well be hanged for a wedder as for a lamb, a wedder being a male castrated sheep. The word wedder is linguistically related to bellwether, a large, castrated sheep wearing a bell that lets a shepherd know where the flock is going. This is part of a complete episode.
- Mrs. Astor’s Horse (episode #1530) 07/29/2019: "What has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn't a cat?" Answer: a kitten! A 1948... [more]
- At First Blush (episode #1529) 07/15/2019: Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spanish-language adventure novel,... [more]
- Gift Horse (episode #1528) 07/01/2019: The edge of the Grand Canyon. A remote mountaintop. A medieval cathedral. Some places are so mystical you feel like you're close to another dimension... [more]
- Had the Radish (episode #1527) 06/21/2019: Your first name is very personal, but what if you don't like it? For some people, changing their name works out great but for others... [more]
- Abso-Bloomin-Lutely (episode #1526) 06/03/2019: The autocomplete function on your phone comes in handy, of course. But is it changing the way we write and how linguists study language? Also,... [more]