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Episode 1528

Gift Horse

The edge of the Grand Canyon. A remote mountaintop. A medieval cathedral. Some places are so mystical you feel like you’re close to another dimension of space and time. There’s a term for such locales: thin places. And: did you ever go...

Shaving Yak Hair

Greg in San Antonio, Texas, who works in the tech industry, says he and his co-workers use the phrase shaving yak hair to describe a monotonous, tedious task. The phrase was inspired by a 1991 segment of The Ren and Stimpy Show, in which the title...

The Music Truck

In response to our conversation about the expression ding-ding man, a term used mainly in Nebraska to mean “the driver of an ice cream truck,” Greg in Auburn, California, shared that he and his wife used to call that vehicle the music...

Smarmy Smarm

Greg, calling from Norfolk, Virginia, says that when he uses the word smarmy, some people seem not to know it. What does it mean? Where does it come from? Is it even a real word? It’s related to an old verb meaning to smear or be-daub. It’s kind of...

Palaver

The term palaver, meaning an idle or prolonged discussion, comes from the old Portuguese term palavra that British sailors picked up at West African ports in the 1700s, where palaver huts are places where villagers can gather to discuss local...

Episode 1371

On the Shoe Phone

First names like “Patience,” “Hope,” and “Charity” are inspired by worthy qualities. But how about “Be-courteous” or “Hate-evil”? The Puritans sometimes gave children such names hoping that...