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Skyscrapers

Where’d we get a word like skyscraper? Martha explains the image literally refers to scraping the sky, but first applied to the topmost sail on a ship, and later to tall horses, and high fly balls in baseball. There are similar ideas in other...

Piehole

Shut your piehole! means “Shut your mouth!” Need more slang terms for the mouth? For starters, there’s potato trap, tater trap, tatty trap, bun trap, gingerbread trap, kissing trap, fly trap, rattle trap, baconhole, and cakehole...

Dictionary Mountweazels

A Woodbridge, Connecticut, caller tells the story of coming across the following definition for jungftak in Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1943): “n. A Persian bird, the male of which had only one wing, on the right side...

English Down Under

This week, Martha and Grant discuss terms from Australia, including aerial ping-pong, pumpkin squatter, and…kangarooster? They explain the connection between stereotypes and stereos, and why we call the person clearing tables in a restaurant a...

Wet Birds Don’t Fly at Night

A Wisconsin listener remembers a boss who used to use an odd expression whenever he wanted to change the subject of a discussion. The boss would say, “Well, wet birds don’t fly at night,” then switch to another subject. Grant...

Go Fly a Kite

“Go fly a kite!” A caller from Washington, D.C. wonders whose kite is getting flown and why. Naturally, we have some ideas! Here’s a copy of the cartoon Grant mentions (from the Chicago Tribune May 15, 1927, p. G2). This is part of...