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Cherry Bumps on a Swing

Jean in Thetford, Vermont, remembers using the term cherry bump to refer to that moment when part of a backyard swingset leaves the ground for a moment, then lands with a thump. Another term for it is cherry bomb, which can also be used for a...

Episode 1546

Singing Sand

Cat hair may be something you brush off, but cat hair is also a slang term that means “money.” In the same way, cat beer isn’t alcoholic — some people use cat beer as a joking term for “milk.” And imagine walking on a...

A Shoo-in

This week it’s butterflies, belly flowers, plot bunnies, foxes, and cuckoos. Also, writing advice from Mark Twain and a wonderful bit of prose from Sara Pennypacker’s book Pax. And are there word origins? Well, does a duck swim? We’ll...

Episode 1454

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...

Diamond in the Rough

What’s the meaning of the phrase diamond in the rough? Does it refer to a rose among thorns, to unrealized potential? The phrase derives from the diamond industry, where a diamond in the rough is one taken from the ground but still unpolished...

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