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Johnny Pump

Paul in Centerville, Massachusetts, says his parents, who hail from Brooklyn, New York, always referred to a fire hydrant as a Johnny pump. This term is largely confined to New York City, and may derive from the fact that these sources of water were...

Selling Wolf Tickets

If you’re selling wolf tickets (or woof tickets), you’re not being truthful. The expression may arise from the old story about the boy who cried Wolf! when in fact there was none around. This is part of a complete episode.

Origin and Meaning of “Jawn”

When Audrey was growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the late 1990s, it seemed that everyone around her used the word jawn as an all-purpose substitute for other words, as in I took my jawn to the jawn and we had a bunch of jawns...

If a Bullfrog Had Wings

Mitchell from Arlington, Texas, wonders about his father’s expression: If a bullfrog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt. It’s been around since at least the early 1900s, and is a variation on an older expression, If pigs had...

Why Don’t We Pronounce the W in Two?

Shona in San Diego, California, is puzzling over why we don’t pronounce the w in the word two. The answer has to do with its etymological origins and the fact that spelling doesn’t change as quickly as pronunciation. This is part of a...