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Episode 1538

Little Shavers

The word hipster might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s when it referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best nightclubs and cool music. Speaking of music, a professional musician reports that it’s...

Episode 1532

Off the Turnip Truck

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham Bell suggested answering with ahoy! but Thomas Edison was partial to hello! A fascinating new book about...

Awesome, Awful, and Semantic Drift

Lawrence from San Antonio, Texas, wonders if spelling is a factor in the different meanings of awful, which describes something negative, and awesome, which describes something positive. Spelling doesn’t come into play here; in fact, for years...

That Smarts!

A listener in Abilene, Texas, wonders about the expression that smarts! The verb to smart, meaning to sting or cause sharp pain, goes back more than a thousand years. The adjective smart, meaning intelligent, evolved from that sense of something...

Reordering Definitions Word Game

Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle takes the definition of a word, and then alphabetizes all the words in the definition. For example, the definition of one familiar noun consists of the following words, but not in alphabetical order: “and...