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Interesting Foreign Expressions

The French expression peigner la girafe means to do a useless, tedious, or annoying job, but literally translates as “to comb the giraffe.” That’s one of the many gems in Mark Abley’s new book Watch Your Tongue: What Our...

More Old Similes

Some of the more successful similes in Grenville Kleiser’s 1910 book Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases include the sky was like a peach and like footsteps on wool and quaking and quivering like a short-haired puppy after a ducking. This is part...

Dust Bunnies

Is it cheating to say you’ve read a book if you only listened to it on tape? Over the centuries, the way we think about reading has changed a lot. There was a time, for example, when reading silently was considered strange. Plus, what do you...

Careful with That Teakettle! (minicast)

A caller who grew up in New Jersey remembers hearing a neighbor use the expression Hak mir nisht ken tshaynik whenever she wanted to shush someone. He’s sure the phrase is Yiddish, but he’s never been able to figure out the literal...