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Thickly Settled

Marisa in Bellingham, Washington, was puzzled by a traffic sign in Massachusetts that read “Thickly Settled.” As far back as the 1830s, the term thickly settled was used in the Massachusetts legal code to refer to an area with a lot of...

Bottled Sunshine (episode #1512)

If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term, adapted into English from Dutch, means “an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric.” And: What’s your relationship with the books on your...

Bum Rush

Chris from Castro, New York, is curious about bum rush or bum’s rush, which refers to forcibly removing someone from an establishment. In 1987, Public Enemy’s debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show popularized the use of bum rush to mean...

Sweet Dreams (episode #1450)

In deafening workplaces, like sawmills and factories, workers develop their own elaborate sign language to discuss everything from how their weekend went to when the boss is on his way. Plus, English speakers borrowed the words lieutenant and...

Gangbusters (episode #1448)

Sensuous words and terms of endearment. Think of a beautiful word. Now, is it simply the word’s sound that makes it beautiful? Or does its appeal also depend on meaning? Also, pet names for lovers around the world: You might call your beloved...

Smile Belt

The only time you’ll ever see the sun’s outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is called the corona, from the Latin word for “crown” — just like the little crown...

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