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Help Writing Historical Fiction Right

Judy in Fort Worth, Texas, is writing some historical fiction. What are some tips for representing the dialect and vernacular of a particular time and place with accuracy? One great resource is the Dictionary of American Regional English. Another...

Burning the Coconuts

The Spanish word for “sunroof,” that opening in the top of a car, is quemacocos, which has a picturesque origin. Coco is a slang term for “head,” from the resemblance between that body part and a coconut. And the Spanish word...

Knows Everybody

A 1946 article in the California Folklore Quarterly features a collection of folks sayings from a pioneer family in Western Oregon, including this phrase to describe the one person in town who seems to know everybody’s business: He knew...

Episode 1530

Mrs. Astor’s Horse

“What has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn’t a cat?” Answer: a kitten! A 1948 children’s joke book has lots of these to share with kids. Plus: an easy explanation for the difference between...

Euphemism for the Devil

Tess in San Antonio, Texas, says her father and grandfather used to pretend to be bogeymen, playfully warning kids to be good lest Ol’ Santy Mocus come after them. The word tantibogus is a euphemism for the Devil, and Ol’ Santy Mocus may...