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Mystery Drawer (episode #1555)

Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange assignment: find a monarch caterpillar. The result? A memorable lesson in the miracle of metamorphosis...

Auntie

Many listeners responded to our conversation about the use of the term auntie to refer to an older woman who is not a blood relative. It turns out that throughout much of Africa, Asia, as well as among Native Americans, the word auntie, or its...

Wet Brick

What the fox says may be a mystery, but we do know that dogs bark differently around the world. In China, for example, they say not bow-wow but wang wang.  Also, the story behind the British tradition of scrumping. It’s not a middle...

Struthonian

If you behave in a struthonian manner, then it means you’re behaving like an ostrich. This play term comes from struthos, the ancient Greek word for ostrich. Actually, according to the American Ostrich Association, the old belief that an...

Linguistic Myths Surrounding Taphophobia

A Wellesley College student has been reading about the Victorian fear of being buried alive—also known as taphophobia—and the bizarre 19th-century burial practices associated with it. She’s heard that they gave rise to such expressions as dead...

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