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Pill Meant Bullet

In the Private Voices corpus of American Civil War letters, the term pill is often used to mean bullet, although this slang term is at least a century older. This is part of a complete episode.

Hell’s Half Acre Expression

The expression hell’s half acre denotes a small patch of land or a place that’s otherwise undesirable. It has been around for a century and a half. This is part of a complete episode.

Light Bulbs Mean Ideas

In comic strips, a bright idea is symbolized by a light bulb over a character’s head. This association between an incandescent bulb and inspiration was popularized in the early 20th century by the cartoon character Felix the Cat, but the...

To Harp on Something

Does the expression to harp on, as in “to nag,” have anything to do with the stringed instrument one plays by plucking? Yes! As early as the 16th century to harp all of one string meant to keep playing the same single note monotonously...

All Girled Up

More than a century ago, the Springfield Republican newspaper in Massachusetts proposed a new word for that twitterpated time in an adolescent’s life when one discovers the joys of flirtation: being all girled up. The Republican is also the...

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