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Orts and Other Bits of Food

An ort is a small bite of food left on one’s dinner plate. Also known as the manners bit or manners piece, because some people consider it polite for guests to leave that last bite, which suggests that the host provided enough for everyone to...

Muckle on to Something

Bill in Surrey, New Hampshire, says his father used to tell him to hold tightly to something, such as a rope, by urging him to muckle on to it. He rarely heard the word again until a Scotsman visited his farm and admiringly noted that Bill’s...

Buy the Farm Origin

Adair in Fort Worth, Texas, says that her mother said that when traveling a dangerous stretch of road she and her husband almost bought the ranch, meaning they came close to having a fatal wreck. The more common phrase is bought the farm...

Piggy Banks

Why do we have piggy banks instead of any other kind of farm animal banks? In Scotland and Northern England, a kind of Middle Ages earthenware container called pygg. Today we fill our piggs, or piggy banks, with coins. This is part of a complete...

shot berry

shot berry  n.— «I spoke to Paul Vossen, Sonoma County farm adviser, about your question. He says that your olives are producing what is known as “shot berries,” tiny fruit that isn’t pollinated and then drops from the tree...

dirt diving

dirt diving  n.— «Tucked away on a long driveway, just after a donkey farm, is Vermont Skydiving Adventures (VSA).…Last Friday, four regulars were “dirt diving,” the term for practicing maneuvers on the ground. They were planning on...