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Episode 1507

Sundog

A clever pun can make the difference between a so-so phrase and a memorable one. The phrase “the last straw” refers to an old fable about too many items in a load, but it takes on a whole new meaning in a public-awareness campaign about...

Hang for a Sheep

Rick calls from Rouses Point, New York, to ask about the etymology of the phrase to hang for a sheep as for a lamb, meaning to go for broke or to go all out. The answer involves the old tradition of capital punishment for poaching animals. Given the...

Episode 1503

Piping Hot

The game of baseball has alway inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word stuff, for example, can refer to a pitcher’s repertoire, to the spin on a ball, or what happens to the ball...

Get on the Stick

Iris from Cave Junction, Oregon, wonders about the expressions get on the stick, meaning get going, and piping hot, meaning extremely hot. While some have associated the phrase get on the stick with an automotive origin, a more likely etymology...

Smile Belt

The only time you’ll ever see the sun’s outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is called the corona, from the Latin word for “crown” — just like the little crown...

Fickle Finger of Fate

A young woman wants a family-friendly way to describe a statement that’s fraudulent or bogus, but all the words she can think of sound old-fashioned. Is there a better term than malarkey, poppycock, or rubbish? Also, listeners step up to help...