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Episode 1592

You Talk Like a Sausage  

Do you refer to your dog or cat as “somebody”? As in: When you love somebody that much, you don’t mind if they slobber. In other words, is your pet a somebody or a something? Also, for centuries, there was little consistency in the...

Episode 1591

Pushing the Envelope

Sure, there’s winter, spring, summer, and fall. But the seasons in between have even more poetic names. In Alaska, greenup describes a sudden, dramatic burst of green after a long, dark winter. And there are many, many terms for a cold snap...

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...

Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

Tarnation, Gumption, and Brogans

Lanessa in San Antonio, Texas, remembers once when her Tennessee-born grandmother saw her grandfather coming home from work and tromping into her pristine kitchen: “What in the tarnation? You don’t have any gumption! Don’t come...