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Jazz Gates are Swinging

Trombonist Benjamin Jacobs-El, who toured with jazz great Lionel Hampton, calls from Huntsville, Alabama, to say that Hampton regularly addressed friends and band members as gate, as in Hey, gates, how’re you doing? Is that because good jazz...

Episode 1511

Care Package

Sending someone a care package shows you care, of course. But the first care packages were boxes of food and personal items for survivors of World War II. They were from the Committee for American Remittances to Europe, the acronym for which is CARE...

Episode 1621

Gleam in Your Eye

A remarkable new documentary explores the world of amateur and professional mermaiding and the language bubbling up within it. Some mermaiding enthusiasts greet each other with a friendly “Shello!” Plus, an adoptee wonders what to call...

A Hot Needle and Burning Thread

Margaret from Huntsville, Alabama, says her mother used to tell her to hurry up by saying to get something done with a burning needle and a hot thread. The more common expression is with a hot needle and burning thread, meaning to do something...

Episode 1508

Take Tea for the Fever

Silence comes in many forms. Writer Paul Goodman says there is, for example, the noisy silence of “resentment and self-recrimination,” and the helpful, participatory silence of actively listening to someone speak. • The strange story...

Episode 1586

Mittens in Moonlight

Need a slang term that can replace just about any noun? Try chumpie. If you’re from Philadelphia, you may already know this handy placeholder word. And there’s Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and … The Bronx — why do we add...