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Whistle Britches

Writers and where they do their best creative work. A new book on Geoffrey Chaucer describes the dark, cramped, smelly room where he wrote his early work. Which raises the question: What kind of space do you need to produce your best writing? Also...

Salt-and-Pepper Cellar

The -cellar in saltcellar derives from an Old French word meaning “salt box,” and is etymologically related to the word salt itself. A caller from India says she grew up with the expression salt-and-pepper cellar, and it turns out...

Do the Needful

“Do the needful” is a phrase commonly heard from people in India working in tech support. Though it’s fallen out of fashion in British dialects, it’s still common in India to mean “do what you must.” This is part...

Noon Balloon to Rangoon

Is there a word you keep having to look up in the dictionary, no matter how many times you’ve looked it up before? Maybe it’s time for a mnemonic device. And: a listener shares a letter from Kurt Vonnegut himself, with some reassuring...

Drop a Dime

Why call it a doggy bag when it’s really for your husband? Grant and Martha talk about the language of leftovers and why we eat beef and not cow. And how old is the typical public-library patron? Plus, in Afghanistan, proverbs are part of...