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A Borrowed Day

An email from Sam Rittenberg in New York, New York, describes his mother’s use of borrowed day, a term so closely associated with her that her family had it inscribed on her tombstone. This is part of a complete episode.

Email Enamel

The French word for “enamel” is émail, with an acute accent on the e. To avoid confusion, the French use courriel or simply le mail to denote those electronic missives. This is part of a complete episode.

Episode 1514

Space Cadet

We have books for language-lovers and recommendations for history buffs. • How did the word boondoggle come to denote a wasteful project? The answer involves the Boy Scouts, a baby, a craft project, and a city council meeting. • Instead of reversing...

Bus Number 11

Our conversation about slang terms for traveling by foot prompted an email from Tom in Canton, Texas, who reports that while living in Israel, he used to hear fellow high school students say in Arabic that they were taking bus number 11, the long...

Burn Bag

The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 collection of contemporary slang records clever terms for everything from a bald head to the act of sidling through a crowd. Plus, how to remember the difference...

Flop Sweat

Gerrymandering draws political boundaries to tip elections towards certain political parties. Originally, the word was pronounced “GARY-mandering” with a hard “g.” But why? And why did it change? • Mark Twain and Helen Keller...