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Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

A Millionaire’s Family

In another episode, we discussed pigeon pair, or “a daughter and son,” an allusion to the old belief that pigeons and doves always have two chicks, one of each sex. A millionaire’s family or a million-dollar family is “a...

What’s a Pigeon Pair?

Nancy in Newport, Kentucky, says friends used to refer to her young son and daughter as a pigeon pair. Doves and pigeons tend to have two chicks at a time, and at one point, it was believed that these offspring consisted of one male and female...

Episode 1590

Primary Colors

Centuries ago, monks who took a vow of silence developed their own hand signs, with hundreds of gestures, that are still in use today. Plus, how do speakers of different languages distinguish similar shades and tints of colors such as red, yellow...

Two Bits and Pieces of Eight

Nancy from Berthold, North Dakota, used the expression two bits to mean “25 cents.” Her adult daughter had heard neither that expression nor the saying Shave and a haircut, two bits or the cheer Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar...