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I Got the Motts

Emilia from Chicago, Illinois, says a co-worker used the phrase get the Motts to denote the feeling of second-hand embarrassment she feels for someone when watching a cringeworthy performance. The phrase I got the Motts became a catchphrase in the...

Episode 1524

Kite in a Phone Booth

Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. In New York City, the slang term brick means “cold,” and dumb brick means “really cold.” Plus: the East and Central African tradition...

Little Pitchers Have Big Corn

Our conversation about the reminder that little pitchers have big ears prompted Cheryl to write from Chicago that she and her friends developed punny way to say the same thing. They just warn each other by saying “Corn!” This is part of...

Chopped Liver

There’s a proverb that goes “beloved children have many names.” At least, that’s true when it comes to the names we give our pets. “Fluffy” becomes “Fluffers” becomes “FluffFace” becomes...

Governor Moonbeam

Why is California governor Jerry Brown sometimes called Governor Moonbeam? This ethereal moniker was bestowed by the great Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko to suggest a kind of hippie-dippie, insubstatntial, lack of practicality. This is part...

Ribey

A Chicago, Illinois, man says his Appalachian relatives describe a thin or gaunt person as ribey. This adjective probably derives from the Scots term ribe, meaning a tall, scraggly plant and by extension a tall, thin person. This is part of a...