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Episode 1527

Had the Radish

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 it may create more problems than it solves. And: at least three towns in the U.S. were christened with names...

Towns Named Backward

Remlap, Alabama and Trebloc, Mississippi are examples of ananyms — names formed by spelling a word backward, making them a kind of anagram. In the case of the Alabama town, it’s named after the Palmer family, and the Mississippi town is named...

Episode 1517

Hair on Your Tongue

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. • The best writers create...

Origin of “Pooh-Pooh”

An Alabama man wonders about the verb to pooh-pooh, meaning to disdain or disapprove. It has nothing to do with the similar-sounding word for excrement, but rather the noise one makes when being dismissive. It started as simply pooh in the 1500s...

“To Boot” Origins

Maribel in Montgomery, Alabama, asks about why we say to boot to mean in addition. This kind of boot has nothing to do with the kind you wear on your feet. It’s from Old English bot, meaning advantage or remedy, and is a linguistic relative of...