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Latvian Expressions

A Latvian expression that translates as “Did a bear stomp on your ear?” is a more colorful, though no more kind, way to tell someone they have no ear for music. Also heard in Latvia is an idiom that translates as “You’re...

Words Derived from Old Places

A bunch of English words actually take from the names of old places: peach comes from Persia, bungalow refers to a house “of the Bengal type,” and laconic refers to the region of Sparta famous as a place where people valued speech that...

Springtime Twitterpation

Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated—you know, you’re smitten beyond a crush. Speaking of relationships, are dog owners really owners, or should they call themselves something else, like guardian or human? And if you’re up...

The Most Beautiful Icelandic Word

In Icelandic, the term for “midwife” literally translates as “light mother.” Icelanders voted it the most beautiful word in their language. Similarly, in Spanish, the phrase for “give birth,” dar a luz, translates...

A Few Quick Book Reviews

Although I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like, here are a few books I have recently read and enjoyed. Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky of the Yiddish Book...

Strange Spelling Bee Words

Why do spelling bees include such bizarre, obsolete words as cymotrichous? Why is New York called the Big Apple? Also, the stinky folk medicine tradition called an asifidity bag, the surprising number of common English phrases that come directly...

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