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Origin of the “Big Mahoff”

Doug in Madison, Wisconsin, remembers that when he was growing up in Philadelphia, his dad used the phrase the big mahoff to refer to someone important. This term that means “the big boss” or “the big cheese,” is largely...

Not the Boss of Me

The phrase “You’re not the boss of me” may have been popularized by the They Might Be Giants song that serves as the theme for TV’s “Malcolm in the Middle.” But this turn of phrase goes back to at least 1883. This...

Textile Mill Signs

In an earlier episode, we discussed visual signals used in deafening environments such as sawmills. One signal, developed in a textile mill, was holding up both hands, fingertips up and palms out, miming a gesture of pushing. That pushing motion...

Like a Boss

Where does the meme like a boss come from? The original boss may be the rapper Slim Thug, whose 2005 track “Like A Boss,” from the album Already Platinum (which never went platinum), lists the myriad tasks he performs like a boss (e.g...

Sailor’s Delight

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.” Martha talks about this weather proverb, which has been around in one form or another since ancient times. Grant shares a favorite weather word: slatch...