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The Thing Is, Is

Many public speakers, including President Obama, have developed a reputation for using the reduplicative copula. You know, that thing where he says, “the thing of it is, is…” In wonky speak, this is what happens when a cleft...

Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels

If you say to someone the Spanish equivalent of “you’re giving me green gray hairs” (me sacas canas verdes), it means that person is making you angry. In Japan, the phrase that literally translates as “one red dot”...

Where the Tsar Goes

A listener shares a Russian saying that translates I am going “there where the Tsar goes on foot,” meaning “I am going to the bathroom.” It’s the equivalent of we all put our pants on one leg at a time, or we’re...

Like Death Eating a Cracker

Digital timepieces may be changing the way we talk, at least a little. There’s Bob o’clock (8:08), Big o’clock (8:19), and even Pi o’clock. Also this week, what do you call that gesture with your fingers when you want to make...

Non-Native Speaker Idioms

When speakers of foreign languages try to adapt their own idioms into English, the results can be poetic, if not downright puzzling. A Dallas listener shares some favorite examples from his Italian-born wife, including “I can put my hand to...

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