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Chumpie, A Multipurpose Philadelphia Word

Alvin in Huntsville, Alabama, is a fan of the multipurpose noun chumpie, which he learned from a native Philadelphian. He remembers hearing it on the television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, when actor Will Smith, who is originally from...

Episode 1561

Mudlarking

Twice a day the River Thames recedes, revealing a muddy shoreline. Hobbyists known as mudlarks stroll the surface searching for objects that have found their way into the river over the centuries, everything from ancient Roman jewelry to modern...

Episode 1585

Diamond Dust

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...

Episode 1584

Sleepy Winks

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...

Episode 1560

Snaggletooth

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...

Episode 1580

Beefed It

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...