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Put a Bug in One’s Ear

Jamie from Calais, Vermont, says an unfortunate experience with an insect made her wonder about the expression to put a bug in your ear or put a bug in one’s ear, meaning “to make a strong, insistent suggestion to someone.” An...

Names for Lightning Bugs and Fireflies

Fireflies have lots of different names in English, including lightning bug, lighter fly, glowworm, and third-shift mosquito. These insects have similarly poetic names in other languages. In Brazil, it’s a vagalume or wandering light, and the...

Zika

Unfortunately, one word of the year candidate for 2016 is Zika, the name of the mosquito-borne virus linked to devastating birth defects. This is part of a complete episode.

Shrilk

Shrilk, a new substance made out of shrimp shells and silk, is gaining popularity as a substitute for plastic. We can still pretty much guarantee that, “One word: shrilk,” will never be a classic movie line. This is part of a complete...

Etymology of Cobwebs

Cobwebs are the same thing as spiderwebs, and they get their name from the old English term coppe, meaning “spider,” which turns up in The Hobbit in a poem about an attercop. This is part of a complete episode.