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Visiting With One Arm Long Than the Other

Maggie in Spring Valley, New York, recalls her father’s advice: Don’t go visiting with one arm longer than the other. He meant “Don’t arrive as a guest empty-handed.” The original expression appears to come from...

Nicket, the Back of the Knee

Emily in San Diego, California, reports her father’s side of the family has a word for the back of the knee: nicket. German speakers refer to that part of the body as the Kniekehle, from German words meaning “knee” and...

Elbow Clerk

Speaking to a conference of judges and lawyers, Grant learns the term elbow clerk, meaning a clerk who works in the judge’s chambers. This is part of a complete episode.

The Cat’s Pajamas

The cat’s pajamas, denoting something excellent, arose in the 1920’s along with many similarly improbable phrases involving animals and their anatomy or possessions, including the gnat’s elbow, the eel’s ankles, and the...

Around My Elbow to My Thumb

A colloquial apology for telling an overly long story is “Sorry I had to go around my elbow to get to my thumb.” The phrase is also a handy way to indicate you took the opposite of a shortcut. This is part of a complete episode.

Elbow Grease

Elbow grease isn’t a product you can buy at the hardware store. If a task demands elbow grease, that just means whatever you’re doing requires hard work that might result in sweat. This is part of a complete episode.

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