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Episode 1524

Kite in a Phone Booth

Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. In New York City, the slang term brick means “cold,” and dumb brick means “really cold.” Plus: the East and Central African tradition...

Episode 1624

Pizza Bones

If your last name is Cook or Smith, your ancestors probably worked in those professions. But what if your last name is Pope? Or Abbott? And if you have enough food for Coxey’s army, you have more than enough to go around. The phrase refers to...

Bye-Bye Biweekly

Leah, a college student in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asks: Does biweekly mean “twice a week” or “once every two weeks”? In British English, fortnightly specifies “once every two weeks.” But biweekly is...

Episode 1621

Gleam in Your Eye

A remarkable new documentary explores the world of amateur and professional mermaiding and the language bubbling up within it. Some mermaiding enthusiasts greet each other with a friendly “Shello!” Plus, an adoptee wonders what to call...

Versus v. Vs.

The word versus can be abbreviated any of several ways. In legal contexts in the United States, it’s usually abbreviated as v., as in Supreme Court decisions on Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade. In less formal situations, such as...