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Episode 1536

The Black Dog

Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away — and some were as vicious as...

Episode 1521

Spill the Tea

If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don’t want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in “truth.” To spill the T means to “pass along truthful information.” Plus...

Is “Howdy” an Uncouth Greeting?

Years ago, Derek from Omaha, Nebraska, adopted the greeting howdy, but his wife says it sounds too uncultured. In a 2012 paper in the Journal of English Linguistics by Lauren Hall Lew and Nola Stephens describe howdy as a term that is enregistered...

Open Up a Can of Words

You know that feeling you get when you say something you’ve known forever — slang, a catchphrase, a cultural reference — and the other person stares blankly? They have no idea what you’re referring to. Sometimes you feel old...