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Episode 1581

Your Imaginary Boyfriend

We use the term Milky Way for that glowing arc across the sky. But how people picture it varies from culture to culture. In Sweden, that starry band goes by a name that means “Winter Street,” and in Hawaii, a term for the Milky Way...

Overhauling Has Nautical History

In nautical parlance, if you slacken a rope by pulling in the opposite direction to separate the blocks in a block-and-tackle system, you’re said to overhaul it — the inspiration for the more general term that means to “change...

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...

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...

Episode 1506

Oh, For Cute!

A stereotype is a preconceived notion about a person or group. Originally, though, the word stereotype referred to a printing device used to produce lots of identical copies. • The link between tiny mythical creatures called trolls and modern-day...

VCCV Brain Stretcher

Crossword-puzzle constructors often employ words with a vowel-consonant-consonant-vowel pattern, or VCCV. That’s the cruciverbal inspiration Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s VCCV puzzle. For example, if the clue is teen woe, what’s the...