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Episode 1544

Hog on Ice

One secret to writing well is … there is no secret! There’s no substitute for simply sitting down day after day to practice the craft and learn from your mistakes. Plus, childhood mixups around word definitions can lead to some funny stories...

Groovy Slang Origins

David in Livingston, Montana, heard a 1954 radio show in which Frank Sinatra used the phrase sweet and groovy, like a nine-cent movie. Was the word groovy really around in those days? Yes, by 1937, the term had filtered into the mainstream from the...

Episode 1541

Walkie Talkie

One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear — and one of the most poignant — isn’t in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The...

Why Don’t We Pronounce the W in Two?

Shona in San Diego, California, is puzzling over why we don’t pronounce the w in the word two. The answer has to do with its etymological origins and the fact that spelling doesn’t change as quickly as pronunciation. This is part of a...

Episode 1537

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

That Don’t Make ’Em Biscuits

Don from Munday, Texas, is fond of the phrase You can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make ’em biscuits, which is a way of saying that even if you call something by a different name, that doesn’t change its essential nature. A...