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Copacetic

Brand names, children’s games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes—but where did the word PEZ come from? The popular candy’s name is the product of wordplay involving...

Dead Ringers and Spitten Images

Two familiar terms that have inspired lots of bogus etymologies are “dead ringer” and “spitting image.” “Dead ringer” probably comes from horse racing, where a ringer is a horse that may look like other horses in...

Dutch Doors

A door divided across the middle so that the bottom half stays closed while the top half opens is known as a Dutch door, a stable door, or a half-door. Some people informally call it a Mr. Ed door, named after a TV series popular in the 1960’s...

Hold ‘er Newt!

A Georgia caller says when her grandfather had to make a sudden stop while driving, he’d yell “hold ‘er Newt, she smells alfalfa!” This phrase and variations like “hold ‘er Newt, she’s a-headin’ for...

Seen From a Galloping Horse

Growing up in Jamaica, a woman used to hear her fashion-designer mother invoke this phrase to indicate that something was good enough, even if it was flawed: “A man on a galloping horse wouldn’t see it.” Variations include...

Hector’s Pup

Sharing a secret language. Did you ever speak in gibberish with a childhood pal, adding extra syllables to words so the adults couldn’t understand what you were saying? Such wordplay isn’t just for kids–and it’s not just...

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