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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...

Off We Go, Laughing and Scratching

After our conversation about Off we go like a herd of turtles, often said by a parent gathering kids to leave the house, Joanna in Santa Cruz, California, shares the one she heard from her father: Here we go, laughing and scratching! In 1939...

Episode 1556

Good Vibrations

Asthenosphere, a geologist’s term for the molten layer beneath the earth’s crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece to the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Plus: What the heck is a dogberg? It’s when...

How Do You Pronounce “Biopic”?

Kate from Arlington, Massachusetts, and her boyfriend disagree about how to pronounce biopic. The confusion arises in part because the -opic at the end looks like the ends of words like myopic and microscopic. It’s actually a shortening of the...

Episode 1547

Cabin Fever

The adjectives canine and feline refer to dogs and cats. But how does English address other groups of animals? Plus, cabin fever has been around much longer than the current pandemic. That restless, antsy, stir-crazy feeling goes back to the days...

Apple Box and Other Movie-Making Terms

Apple box, full apple, half apple, and pancake are all moviemaking terms that refer to height gradations of boxes used for actors to stand on to appear taller. These bits of Hollywood jargon and much more are compiled in Richard Kroon’s A/V a...