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Pepper Alley

A kindergartener misunderstands the name of an event at his school, insisting to his mother that he attended a pepper alley, not a pep rally. Let’s hope that’s the case, because pepper alley is actually 19th-century boxing slang for...

Box and Cox

To play Box and Cox means to participate in an arrangement in which you and someone else take turns occupying the same space at different times. This British expression derives from Box and Cox (Bookshop|Amazon), an 1847 farce by John Maddison...

Episode 1547

Cabin Fever

The adjectives canine and feline refer to dogs and cats. But how does English address other groups of animals? Plus, cabin fever has been around much longer than the current pandemic. That restless, antsy, stir-crazy feeling goes back to the days...

Apple Box and Other Movie-Making Terms

Apple box, full apple, half apple, and pancake are all moviemaking terms that refer to height gradations of boxes used for actors to stand on to appear taller. These bits of Hollywood jargon and much more are compiled in Richard Kroon’s A/V a...

Billy Tape Measure

Mary says her Illinois-born husband and father-in-law refer to a measuring tape as a billy. The word billy is used in a slangy sense to refer long lengths of metal, such a billy knife, and a Billy Box is a kind of toolbox, but the use of billy to...

Help A Way with Words cover costs!

We’re almost finished! We’re in the three-day final stretch of our 2011 campaign to support some of our necessary fixed costs. Read about it here. Can you help? Give a tax-deductible donation now! You can also send your donations by...