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Episode 1535

Beside Myself

The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the vocabulary of the early 20th century? It may be jarring to hear the word swag, but it was already at...

Swag, Meaning Bunting

Marian in Norfolk, Virginia, says a character in the new Downton Abbey movie uses the term swag meaning either “bunting” or “stuff,” and wonders if its use in the film is a linguistic anachronism. In fact, swag was used with...

Latin Palindrome Riddle

“In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” is a Latin palindrome doubling as a riddle. It’s variously translated as “We enter the circle at night and are consumed by fire” or “We turn in circles in the night and are...

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...

Diegetic and Non-Diegetic

In film production, the term diegetic refers to a sound that occurs within the story itself that the characters supposedly hear, whereas non-diegetic sound refers to background music or narration. For example, the tune played by the pianist in...