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Beat the Band

Can language change bad behavior in crowded places? The Irish Railway system has launched an ad campaign to encourage passengers to be more generous at boarding time. For example, have you ever rummaged through your belongings or pretended to have...

Coast is Clear

In the military, if you’ve lost the bubble, then you can’t find your bearings. The term first referred to calibrating the position of aircraft and submarines. • The phrase the coast is clear may originate in watching for invaders...

The Coast is Clear

A woman in Vancouver, Washington, wants to know the origin of the phrase the coast is clear, meaning “it’s safe to proceed.” It most likely has to do with a literal coast, whether from the perspective of a ship at sea or guards...

The Wreck of Hesperus

Someone who “looks like the wreck of Hesperus” isn’t exactly looking their best. The idiom comes from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, inspired by an 1839 blizzard off the coast of Massachusetts that destroyed 20 ships. This is...

skuke

skuke  n.— «In this little town on the south coast, people like me — summer folk — are known as skukes. I’ve never met anyone who knows the real derivation of the term, but it’s not a compliment. Skukes are annoying because...