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Surcy, Sursee, A Small Gift

Matthew from Columbia, South Carolina, is curious about the word sirsee, a small gift or knickknack. Scattered through much of the American South, this colloquial term is sometimes spelled as surcy, or any of several other variations. The word may...

How Grief Bangs One About

A 1952 thank-you note from then recently widowed Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is a moving description of how grief “bangs one about until one is senseless,” and the comfort that the gift of a book can provide. This is part of a...

Heavy, Heavy Hangover

Clint from Dallas, Texas, recalls a peculiar family tradition for giving birthday presents to a child. A giver would hold a gift over the child’s head and recite: Heavy heavy hangover / Thy poor head / What do you wish this donor? The child...

Episode 1538

Little Shavers

The word hipster might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s when it referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best nightclubs and cool music. Speaking of music, a professional musician reports that it’s...