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Episode 1603

If Grandma Had Wheels

While compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, lexicographer James Murray exchanged hundreds of letters a week with authors, advisors, and volunteer researchers. A new collection online lets you eavesdrop on discussions about which words should be...

A Wasper is a Flyer with a Stinger

Logan in Frankfort, Kentucky, says when he was growing up in the southeastern part of the state, he’d hear people using the word wasper for the insect most people call a wasp. This dialectal variant is common in Appalachia, along with wast and...

Crazy as a Betsy Bug or Bedbug

Jane in Tippecanoe, Indiana, was intrigued by a phrase she encountered while reading Kinky Friedman’s Armadillos and Old Lace. (Bookshop|Amazon). She remembers hearing the phrase crazy as a bedbug, and wonders about Friedman’s use of the...

A Flutter of Some Butterfly Lingo

Martha shares a story about finding a monarch caterpillar and watching its metamorphosis in its gold-dotted chrysalis (from the Greek chrysos, “gold” as in the word chrysanthemum, meaning “golden flower”), to the...

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...

Put a Bug in One’s Ear

Jamie from Calais, Vermont, says an unfortunate experience with an insect made her wonder about the expression to put a bug in your ear or put a bug in one’s ear, meaning “to make a strong, insistent suggestion to someone.” An...