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It’s the Pits, but What are the Pits?

Miranda, a nurse in Altoona, Pennsylvania, had a patient who described her hospital food as the pits, meaning it wasn’t good. The expressions the pits and in the pits arose out of 1950s college slang, and derive from the notion of smelly...

Episode 1607

Old College Try

In just seconds, online text generators and chatbots can produce whole paragraphs of sophisticated prose. But what do advances in artificial intelligence mean for writers? What is lost and what’s gained when machine-writing replaces the work...

Episode 1589

Deep-Fried Air

Eels, orts, and Wordle! Sweden awarded its most prestigious literary award to a book about…eels. The Book of Eels reveals the mysterious life cycle of this sea creature and its significance for famous figures from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud. Plus...

Episode 1586

Mittens in Moonlight

Need a slang term that can replace just about any noun? Try chumpie. If you’re from Philadelphia, you may already know this handy placeholder word. And there’s Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and … The Bronx — why do we add...

Ort Buckets

Our conversation about orts, that term well-known to cruciverbalists for “random bits of leftover food,” prompts listeners to share memories of ort buckets in the dining hall at summer camps, and instructions to keep them as free as...