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Fiddlesticks

Dawn in Evansville, Indiana, wonders why we dismiss something as nonsense by exclaiming Fiddlesticks! The term arose in the 17th century, most likely because the bow for a fiddle is light, thin, and insubstantial, or in other words...

Acronames

Tim and Allison Moyer of Ingram, Texas, care for lots of feral cats in their neighborhood, and refer to them by various names. Often they eventually shorten those names to just initial letters. For example, Calico Kitty becomes simply CK. Is there a...

Neonatal Unit Jargon

Katie in East Thetford, Vermont, shares medical slang and jargon from her work in the neonatal intensive care room at a hospital, including doorbell for “an alarm”; giraffe, “a special bed with controls for heat and...

Everything’s Duck But the Bill

Gabriel Ray from Virginia Beach, Virginia, wonders about the history of something his grandfather used to say in a shoulder-shrugging way: Everything’s duck but the bill. The origin of this phrase is unclear, but it’s similar to a couple...

Storks Roosting in Our Language

In certain ancient traditions, storks were associated with kindness and family devotion. The Hebrew word for this leggy bird is chasidah, meaning “the kindly one,” from chesed, or “loving kindness.” Storks were also highly...

Tap ’Er Light

Cindy in Spokane, Washington, says her father would bid his loved ones good-bye by saying tap ’er light. The phrase comes from miners’ slang of the early 1900s and is a gentle admonition to take care to avoid cave-ins or prematurely detonating...