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Episode 1591

Pushing the Envelope

Sure, there’s winter, spring, summer, and fall. But the seasons in between have even more poetic names. In Alaska, greenup describes a sudden, dramatic burst of green after a long, dark winter. And there are many, many terms for a cold snap...

Episode 1584

Sleepy Winks

It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton’s best-known novel. Today the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest asks contestants for fanciful first sentences that are similarly...

Amen, Brother Ben!

Angel says her grandfather, who was from Manning, South Carolina, was a pastor who used to repeat the phrase Amen, Brother Ben, shot a rooster, killed a hen. This expression can express affirmation, and can also serve as a quick, joking way to say...

Can’t Died; His Brother is Try

The phrases Can’t died in the poorhouse, Can’t died in the war, and Can’t died in the cornfield are all jocular ways of encouraging someone to persevere despite difficulties or long odds. Sometimes this notion involves the...

Episode 1536

The Black Dog

Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away — and some were as vicious as...

Episode 1533

Life of Riley

Unwrap the name of a candy bar, and you just might find a story inside. For instance, one chewy treat found in many a checkout lane is named after a family’s beloved horse. And: 50 years ago in the United States, some Latino elementary...