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Sea Knots

Why are distances at sea measured in knots? In the 1500s, sailors would drop a chip log off the side of the boat and let out the rope for about thirty seconds, counting how many knots on the rope went out. Eventually, one knot came to mean one...

Cumshaw Artistry

We spoke earlier about cumshaw artists, or people who get things done by crafty stealing or bartering. Alan Johnson from Plano, Texas, told us a story from his Air Force days in Vietnam, when he and some comrades stole a bunch of plywood by sneaking...

See the Word Wall

Listeners have been posting photos of themselves with their favorite words on our Word Wall, including some that are new to us. For example, epalpebrate might be a good one to drop when describing the Mona Lisa in art history class, since it means...

See You in Church

Why say goodbye when you could drop the phrase see you in church if the window’s open? This joke about lousy churchgoers is a colorful variant of see you when I see you. This is part of a complete episode.

Pie in the Sky

Looking for a book to read with the kids, or maybe a guide to becoming a better writer? Why are leg cramps called charley horses? And where’d we get a phrase like pie in the sky? If you happen to be tall, you’ve no doubt heard plenty of...

Nouns Without Articles

Sometimes people say they are in studio, in hospital, or going to prom — but there’s no the in there! In plenty of dialects, it’s common to drop such articles, making anarthrous nouns, or nouns without articles. This is part of a...

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