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Episode 1549

Navel-Gazing

In 1971, when a new public library opened in Troy, Michigan, famous authors and artists were invited to write letters to the city’s youngest readers, extolling the many benefits of libraries. One of the loveliest was from E.B. White, author of...

Staring at One’s Own Navel

Eleanor from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is pondering navel-gazing after being surprised to learn that her adult son was unfamiliar with the term. Staring downward at one’s belly to induce a mystical trance has a long history: The...

Episode 1526

Abso-Bloomin-Lutely

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, suppose you could invite any two authors, living or dead, to dinner. Who’s on your guest list and...

Goonus, That Lovable Pudge

sBetsy in Virginia Beach, Virginia, says her family refers to the lovable pudge on babies as goonus. It’s a fond term that can also refer to such things as the swinging belly fat on a cat. Does anyone else say goonus or is it a family word...

“Shingles” Comes from Latin

The painful condition called shingles takes its name from Latin cingulum, meaning belt, because the inflammation often appears as a belt-like band around the torso. The Latin root of cingulum, cingere, meaning to gird, is also the source of cinch, a...

Ways to Say Someone is Pregnant

A father-to-be in Susanville, California, wonders about how many different ways there are to say a woman is pregnant. He likes the term great with child, but isn’t crazy about knocked up. Fortunately, there are more than 120 terms, including:...