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Charlie’s Dead

Elizabeth from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wonders why some people say Charlie’s dead to indicate to someone that her slip is showing. No one knows which Charlie this expression refers to. Similar euphemisms include it’s snowing down south...

Euphemism for the Devil

Tess in San Antonio, Texas, says her father and grandfather used to pretend to be bogeymen, playfully warning kids to be good lest Ol’ Santy Mocus come after them. The word tantibogus is a euphemism for the Devil, and Ol’ Santy Mocus may...

Kite in a Phone Booth (episode #1524)

Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. In New York City, the slang term brick means “cold,” and dumb brick means “really cold.” Plus: the East and Central African tradition...

Dumb Brick = Very Cold

Duncan from Brooklyn, New York, says his friends use dumb to mean “really” and brick to mean “cold.” This use of dumb goes back at least to the 1700s, and was originally a euphemism for damn. Stupid has been used as an...

“Go West” Slang Origin

Liz from San Antonio, Texas, often sees the term going west in World War I-era literature and letters being used to refer to being killed in combat. The term go west as a euphemism for dying most likely has to do with the end of the day. J.R.R...

Hair on Your Tongue (episode #1517)

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. • The best writers create...

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