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Detective Gumshoes is Sneaky

Why are detectives in old movies and mystery novels called gumshoes? The term gumshoe derives from the image of shoes with soles made of gum rubber, which offered an improvement over the wood traditionally used for the bottom of a shoe, since those...

Just Fell Off the Turnip Truck

Sam from St. Paul, Minnesota, says his dad often used the expressions Do you think I just fell off the turnip truck? and I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, meaning “I’m not naive” or “Do you think I was born...

Oxter and Oxtercog

The English word oxter means armpit, and to oxtercog someone is to carry them by the armpits. The term derives from the image of each of two people locking one shoulder under an armpit of the person carried, like a cog fitting into a wheel. This is...

Dusty Miller

Another term for moth is miller or dusty miller, so named the powdery wings of these insects recall the image of a miller — someone who grinds grain — covered in flour. That’s also the inspiration behind the name of the dusty miller plant...

Wearing Your Pants Too High

A Lakeland, Florida, woman wonders about the use of the term floodin’ or flooding to describe someone wearing pants that are too short, as in, “He’s floodin.'” There are many terms for such ill-fitting pants, including flash...

Fly off the Handle

A listener in Quebec, Canada, wonders about the origin of to fly off the handle, meaning “to lose control.” It refers to the image of the head of an axe becoming loose and flying through the air. This is part of a complete episode.