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The verb to kibitz has more than one meaning. It can mean “to chitchat” or “to look on giving unsolicited advice.” The word comes to English through Yiddish, and may derive from German Kiebitz, a reference to a folk belief...


The term white-livered, like lily-livered, can describe someone timid. But an old folk tradition, once common in the South, associates having a white liver or white spots on one’s liver with an insatiable sexual appetite. The terms white...

Asafitidy Bag

What’s an asafidity bag? Variously spelled asfidity, asfedity, asafetida, asphidity, and assafedity, it’s a folk medicine tradition involves putting the stinky resin of the asafetida or asafoetida plant in a small bag worn around the...

Strange Spelling Bee Words

Why do spelling bees include such bizarre, obsolete words as cymotrichous? Why is New York called the Big Apple? Also, the stinky folk medicine tradition called an asifidity bag, the surprising number of common English phrases that come directly...

Best People in the World

A Word-Book of Virginia Folk Speak from 1912 includes this gem: “Bachelors’ wives and old maid’s children are the best people in the world.” This is part of a complete episode.

Sesquipedalian Songs

It seems there’s a sesquipedalian version to the classic “Three Blind Mice” folk rhyme about a trio of rodents with impaired vision. Need a visual yourself? Try this one. This is part of a complete episode.