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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...

Take Tea for the Fever (episode #1508)

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...

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...

Light Bulbs Mean Ideas

In comic strips, a bright idea is symbolized by a light bulb over a character’s head. This association between an incandescent bulb and inspiration was popularized in the early 20th century by the cartoon character Felix the Cat, but the...

Charismatic Megafauna

Choosing language that helps resolve interpersonal conflict. Sometimes a question is really just a veiled form of criticism and understanding the difference between “ask culture” and “guess culture” can help you know how to...

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