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The Last Straw

In this episode, books for word lovers, from a collection of curious words to some fun with Farsi. • Some people yell “Geronimo!” when they jump out of an airplane, but why? • We call something that heats air a heater, so why do we call...

Chocolate Gravy

Say you have an acquaintance you always see at the dog park or the playground. But one night, you run into them at the movies, and for a moment, it’s confusing. Is there a word for that disorienting sense of someone or something being out of...

Folksy Putdowns

A collection of Virginia folkspeak from 1912 includes this zinger about a proud person: “He doesn’t know where his behind hangs.” And here’s a choice insult: “I’d rather have your room than your company!”...

Internet Meme Lexicon

Ben Zimmer published a brilliant collection of internet memes from the past twenty years in a the journal American Speech. Memes like facepalming and the O, rly? owl have allowed us to communicate otherwise unwritable sentiments via the internet...

ABC Party

What would you wear to an ABC party? Hint: the letters stand for “Anything But Clothes.” Any guesses what you’d wear to a tight-and-bright party? Martha gives a taste of the college party terminology from a slang collection...