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Episode 1561

Mudlarking

Twice a day the River Thames recedes, revealing a muddy shoreline. Hobbyists known as mudlarks stroll the surface searching for objects that have found their way into the river over the centuries, everything from ancient Roman jewelry to modern...

At Large

If a suspect is at large, he is moving about freely. The term at large, which comes to us via French from Latin, refers not to size but to distance. The phrase by and large, meaning “generally” or “on the whole,” derives from...

Interesting Foreign Expressions

The French expression peigner la girafe means to do a useless, tedious, or annoying job, but literally translates as “to comb the giraffe.” That’s one of the many gems in Mark Abley’s new book Watch Your Tongue: What Our...

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...

Tennyson’s Brook

The expression on and on like Tennyson’s brook describes something lengthy or seemingly interminable, like a long-winded speaker. The phrase is a reference to a lovely poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson about the course of a body of water. This is...