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Diamond Dust (episode #1585)

Diamond dust, tapioca snow, and sugar icebergs — a 1955 glossary of arctic and subarctic terms describes the environment in ways that sound poetic. And a mom says her son is dating someone who’s non-binary. She supports their relationship, but...

Sleepy Winks (episode #1584)

It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton’s best-known novel. Today the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest asks contestants for fanciful first sentences that are similarly...

Snaggletooth (episode #1560)

Many of us struggled with the Old English poem “Beowulf” in high school. But what if you could actually hear “Beowulf” in the English of today? There’s a new translation by Maria Dahvana Headley that uses contemporary...

Beefed It (episode #1580)

The words tough, through, and dough all end in O-U-G-H. So why don’t they rhyme? A lively new book addresses the many quirks of English by explaining the history of words and phrases. And: have you ever been in a situation where a group makes...

Mystery Date (episode #1577)

A librarian opens a book and finds a mysterious invitation scribbled on the back of a business card. Another discovers a child’s letter to the Tooth Fairy, tucked into a book decades ago. What stories are left untold by these forgotten...

Cumshaw, A Bit of Military Slang

A cumshaw artist is that clever, resourceful person in a military unit who always seems to manage to procure whatever’s needed. This term apparently derives from similar-sounding words in Mandarin, kan hsieh, or kam-si?, in the language spoken...

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