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Episode 1591

Pushing the Envelope

Sure, there’s winter, spring, summer, and fall. But the seasons in between have even more poetic names. In Alaska, greenup describes a sudden, dramatic burst of green after a long, dark winter. And there are many, many terms for a cold snap...

Episode 1532

Off the Turnip Truck

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham Bell suggested answering with ahoy! but Thomas Edison was partial to hello! A fascinating new book about...

Just Fell Off the Turnip Truck

Sam from St. Paul, Minnesota, says his dad often used the expressions Do you think I just fell off the turnip truck? and I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, meaning “I’m not naive” or “Do you think I was born...

To Cotton on to Something

Kyle from Euless, Texas, wonders about the phrase I don’t cotton to this meaning “I don’t agree with this.” It originated in the textile industry, where cotton is prepared to adhere to another fabric. In the same way, some...

Building Coffee

In parts of the United States, the verb to build is used to mean prepare a food or beverage, so you might build a coffee or build a lemon pie. This use of to build appears in a lot of literature of the Old West. This is part of a complete episode.

Words for Leavings and Dregs

Amy from Ishpeming, Michigan, says her family’s idiolect includes the word grinslies, which they use to denote the sediment in the bottom of your coffee cup. The word orts is also a term for leftovers, and a dialectal term for the last little...