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Episode 1514

Space Cadet

We have books for language-lovers and recommendations for history buffs. • How did the word boondoggle come to denote a wasteful project? The answer involves the Boy Scouts, a baby, a craft project, and a city council meeting. • Instead of reversing...

Interesting Foreign Expressions

The French expression peigner la girafe means to do a useless, tedious, or annoying job, but literally translates as “to comb the giraffe.” That’s one of the many gems in Mark Abley’s new book Watch Your Tongue: What Our...

Episode 1512

Bottled Sunshine

If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term, adapted into English from Dutch, means “an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric.” And: What’s your relationship with the books on your...

When Tigers Smoked

In English, fairy tales often begin with the phrase “once upon a time.” In contrast, Korean folktales often begin with “In the old days, when tigers used to smoke,” or similar phrases, such as “In the old, old days when...

Lie Like a Rug

The words we choose can change attitudes — and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples. He says that using words like “leader” and “follower” actually works better...

Cut a Chogi

To cut a chogi, also spelled choagy or chogie, is an English slang term meaning “Let’s get out of here.” It probably stems from Korean: cheogi or jeogi means “there” (it’s opposite, yeogi, means...