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Episode 1509

Ding-Ding Man

In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for classifying clouds — with Latin names we still use today, like cumulus, cirrus, and stratus. Also: when...

Episode 1505

Coinkydink

Sometimes it’s a challenge to give a book a chance: How many pages should you read before deciding it’s not worth your time? There’s a new formula to help with that decision — and it’s all based on your age. • Have you ever...

Faffing Around

While traveling in England, Chris in Hollywood, Florida, picked up a favorite word from his British friends: faff. The expression faffing about means “procrastinating, idling, dawdling” or “acting ineffectually.” Ultimately...

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...

Episode 1498

Dessert Stomach

Funny cat videos and cute online photos inspire equally adorable slang terms we use to talk about them. • Also, when a salamander is not a salamander, the story of an Italian term for a dish towel used halfway across the world, Bozo buttons...

Episode 1609

Hot Gossip

Gossip goes by many names: the poop, the scoop, the lowdown, the dope, the scuttlebutt, the 411, the grapes, the gore, and hot tea. Plus, John Donne’s love poems are among the greatest in the English language, even as they’re famously...