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Episode 1505

Coinkydink

Sometimes it’s a challenge to give a book a chance: How many pages should you read before deciding it’s not worth your time? There’s a new formula to help with that decision — and it’s all based on your age. • Have you ever...

Episode 1502

Mimeographs and Dittos

How colors got their names, and a strange way to write. The terms blue and orange arrived in English via French, so why didn’t we also adapt the French for black and white? • Not every example of writing goes in one direction across the page...

Junk in the Frunk

In an electric car, the trunk is in the front, not the back. Automotive engineers refer to this part of the vehicle as the frunk, a portmanteau of front and trunk. For a while, the Jaguar company, which is based in the UK, instead called it the...

Episode 1552

Moon Palace

What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry — some of which is collected in the anthology England: Poems from a School. Also, new language among...

Episode 1539

Clever Clogs

Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won’t find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection...

Episode 1435

Jump Steady

To transmit information during wartime, various industries used to encode their messages letter by letter with an elaborate system–a primitive version of today’s digital encryption. Grant breaks down some of those secret codes, and...