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Salting the Earth vs. Salt of the Earth

The phrase salt of the earth describes someone who is essential and pure of heart, a reference to the biblical Sermon on the Mount. To salt the earth usually means to render the ground useless, whether metaphorically or literally. This is part of a...

Episode 1548

Yak Shaving

There was a time when William Shakespeare was just another little seven-year-old in school. Classes in his day were demanding — and all in Latin. A new book argues that this rigorous curriculum actually nurtured the creativity that later flourished...

Chocolate Gravy

Say you have an acquaintance you always see at the dog park or the playground. But one night, you run into them at the movies, and for a moment, it’s confusing. Is there a word for that disorienting sense of someone or something being out of...

Two Kinds of Readers

There are two kinds of readers in the world: those who blow past a word they don’t know, and those who drop everything, run to the dictionary, and dig and dig until they figure out what in the world something like pagophilic means. Yes, we...

Best People in the World

A Word-Book of Virginia Folk Speak from 1912 includes this gem: “Bachelors’ wives and old maid’s children are the best people in the world.” This is part of a complete episode.