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Episode 1537

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

Episode 1536

The Black Dog

Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away — and some were as vicious as...

Guess What

English is full of unusual terms, both old (eleemosynary, favonian) and new (flyaway, catio). Also, the Swahili term that means “sleep like a log,” the multiple meanings of the word joint, cowpies and horse biscuits, what it means to...

Subscribing to an Idea

Is subscribing just for magazines and podcasts, or can you subscribe to an idea? A husband and wife disagree over whether the latter is grammatically correct. This is part of a complete episode.

sorry gift

sorry gift  n.— «Because guilt over spending is playing a big role in the sales downturn, he teaches salespeople to suggest a “sorry gift”—of another timepiece—for a wife who might be disappointed that her husband just dropped a sizable...

Nicknames Give Me the Heebie-Jeebies

Everybody has a nickname, and there’s usually a story to go with it. Martha and Grant reveal their own nicknames and the stories behind them. Also, is the expression “heebie-jeebies” anti-Semitic? And is there a better word than...