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Episode 1543

Goody Two-Shoes

She sells seashells by the seashore. Who is the she in this tongue twister? Some claim it’s the young Mary Anning, who went on to become a famous 19th-century British paleontologist. Dubious perhaps, but the story of her rise from seaside...

Quote Investigator

Henry James is often credited with the following quotation, or a version of it: Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. If you’re ever unsure of the provenance...

Infixing and Tmesis

Scott in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wonders if the words nother as in a whole nother and abso-bloomin-lutely are real words. Yes, they are! The construction a whole nother is an example of what linguists call tmesis, which involves the insertion of a...

Lick and Run in Place Names

Orion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, grew up in rural West Virginia on something called Lick Run Road, not far from Mud Lick Road, Turkey Lick Road, and Sanders Run Road. Why do the words lick and run appear in these types of place names? James Hall...

Episode 1429

Burn Bag

The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 collection of contemporary slang records clever terms for everything from a bald head to the act of sidling through a crowd. Plus, how to remember the difference...

Episode 1492

Gung Ho

The origins of the peace symbol, why we say someone who’s enthusiastic is gung ho, a tasty spin on stuffed foccacia that originated in eastern Sicily, curling parents, sharking and other words for driving around a parking lot looking for a...