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Navy Pranks on New Recruits

John, a Navy veteran in San Diego, California, shares some pranks played on new recruits. One involves sending a newbie to the boatswain’s locker for ten yards of gig line. In military jargon, a gig line is the imaginary line from the middle...

The Origin of the Term “Bating” in Falconry

Jenny from Portland, Oregon, is fascinated by the language of falconers. In falconry, the word bate means “to flap the wings impatiently.” A similarly spelled verb, which has nothing to do with falconry, figures in the expression to wait...

Origins of Trouser Fly

Gabrielle in Beloit, Michigan, is puzzled about why we refer to the zipper on a pair of pants as a fly. The term originally referred not to the zipper itself, but the flap that goes over it, like the fly that protects the entrance to a tent. This is...

To Bat Wings and Eyes

In the 17th century, the verb to bate and the likely related verb, to bat, were used in falconry to mean “to flap wildly.” By the 19th century, to bat was also part of the phrase to bat one’s eyelashes. This is part of a complete...

Crotch Watch and Flying Dirty

What do flight attendants call that point in takeoff preparations when they walk up and down the aisle to make sure seatbelts are securely fastened? It’s the crotch watch, also known as a groin scan. The expression flying dirty refers to when...

Rhyming Verb and Noun Phrases

Grant quizzes Martha about the meaning of several rhyming verb and noun phrases: cuff and stuff, the cherries and blueberries, chew and screw, eat it and beat it, and flap and zap. This is part of a complete episode.

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