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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...

Munge and Kludge

In the 1940s, the noun munge was student slang for crud or filth, then later became a verb denoting the action of messing with data in a way that might produce the equivalent of trash or rubbish. Over time, munge, which was sometimes spelled mung...


The German word for “mnemonic device” is Eselsbrücke, or literally, “donkey bridge.” This is part of a complete episode.

Spur of the Moment

A caller with a 25-year-old parrot wonders: How much language do birds really understand? Plus, Knock-knock. Who’s there? Boo. Well… you can guess the rest. But there was a time when these goofy jokes were a brand-new craze sweeping the nation...