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Episode 1603

If Grandma Had Wheels

While compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, lexicographer James Murray exchanged hundreds of letters a week with authors, advisors, and volunteer researchers. A new collection online lets you eavesdrop on discussions about which words should be...

Episode 1584

Sleepy Winks

It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton’s best-known novel. Today the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest asks contestants for fanciful first sentences that are similarly...

Episode 1576

Sour Pickle

You know that Yogi Berra quote about how Nobody ever comes here; it’s too crowded? Actually, the first person to use this was actress Suzanne Ridgeway, who appeared in several movies with The Three Stooges. A new book shows that many well...

Episode 1594

Familiar Strangers

If you take up texting and social media late in life, there’s a lot to learn! A twenty-something wants advice getting her dad up to speed on memes, Instagram, and animated images. Plus, when you’re on a long road trip, what do you call...

Umarell, the Italian Alter Kocker

You’ve seen this guy before: the older gent who strolls around at construction sites, asking questions, offering suggestions, and kibitizing about the activities there. The Italian dictionary Lo Zingarelli (Amazon) recently added the handy...

Other Meanings of “Brainstorm”

Marlena from Dallas, Texas, was surprised to see the word brainstormdefined in an old dictionary as “a violent, transient mental derangement manifested in a maniacal outburst.” That indeed was the sense of this word in the late 19th...