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Naming a City with a Coin Toss

The city of Portland, Oregon, where Martha and Grant recently took their live show, owes its name to a coin toss. The city’s founders, Asa Lovejoy of Boston, Massachusetts, and Frances Pettygrove of Portland, Maine, each wanted to name it for...

Head-to-Tail Shift Puzzle

Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski, who belongs to the National Puzzlers’ League, brought us a game inspired by the league’s newsletter. In this game, based on head-to-tail shifts, the first letter of a word moves to the back to form a new word, so if...

Origin of “Panorama”

Long before English speakers adopted the suffix –orama, as in Scoutorama and smell-o-rama, there was French word panorama referring to “a great display or spectacle.” Panorama comes from Greek words that mean “whole view...

Johnny on the Spot

Does johnny-on-the-spot refer to a person or a porta-potty? Or both? The term johnny-on-the-spot, meaning a fellow who helpfully shows up at just the right instant, dates to the 1870s. But in the early 1900s, the john became a common euphemism for...

Solon

Solon often pops up in headlines as a label for legislators. It is actually an eponym, referring to Solon, an esteemed lawgiver from ancient Athens who lay much of the groundwork for the original democracy. Nowadays, however, the term solon is...

Set the Soup Outside

The old Brooklyn Dodger Roy Campanella really knew how to set the soup outside! A baseball fan recalls this overheard phrase from a game in the 60s between the Cardinals and the Dodgers, when Campy smacked one over the fence. Grant speculates this...