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Episode 1581

Your Imaginary Boyfriend

We use the term Milky Way for that glowing arc across the sky. But how people picture it varies from culture to culture. In Sweden, that starry band goes by a name that means “Winter Street,” and in Hawaii, a term for the Milky Way...

Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

Variations in American Sign Language

If you need further proof that language is always changing, look no further than American Sign Language or ASL. A hundred years ago, the sign for telephone reflected the shape of an old-fashioned candlestick phone — one fist below your mouth and the...

Episode 1579

Forty-Eleven Zillion

When there’s no evening meal planned at home, what do you call that scramble to cobble together your own dinner? Some people apply acronyms like YOYO — “you’re on your own” — or CORN, for “Clean Out your Refrigerator...

Brazilian Words for Misers

Our list of words for stingy people just grew longer, thanks to a contribution from Rick in San Antonio, Texas: When he lived in Brazil, he learned the expression mão-de-vaca, literally “hand of a cow” and pão-duro, literally “hard...

Episode 1591

Pushing the Envelope

Sure, there’s winter, spring, summer, and fall. But the seasons in between have even more poetic names. In Alaska, greenup describes a sudden, dramatic burst of green after a long, dark winter. And there are many, many terms for a cold snap...