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Beefed It (episode #1580)

The words tough, through, and dough all end in O-U-G-H. So why don’t they rhyme? A lively new book addresses the many quirks of English by explaining the history of words and phrases. And: have you ever been in a situation where a group makes...

Toi Toi Toi

Laura in San Diego, California, wonders about the tradition of performers saying Toi toi toi to each other backstage to wish each other a good performance. It’s possible that it derives from the ancient idea that spitting three times can ward...

The Coffee “Is All”

Kathy in Rye, New York, used to live in Central Pennsylvania, where she was surprised by a friend announcing The coffee’s all meaning “The coffee’s all gone.” This phrase is a vestige of Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of...

To Have a Hummel

Sherilyn in Indianapolis, Indiana, says when she was rambunctious as a child, her grandfather, who is of German descent, would ask if she had a hummel. In German, the word Hummel means bee, and a fidgety youngster might be asked Hast Du Hummeln im...

Strubbly Hair

In eastern Pennsylvania, the adjective strubbly describes hair that’s unkempt or messed up. This dialectal term apparently derives from a German word that means tousled. This is part of a complete episode.

Double George

Andrew in Omaha, Nebraska, recalls his grandfather’s use of the word george to mean exceptionally good, and double george to mean really great. Other masculine names, including Jake, Tom, and Jerry have sometimes meant something similar. In...

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