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Episode 1601

Funny Papers

There are word nerds, and then there’s the woman who set up a folding chair on sidewalks throughout the country, cheerfully dispensing tips about grammar. She recounts her adventures in a new book. And the story of the brilliant pioneer of...

Rinctums! No Rinctums!

Aeneas in Las Cruces, New Mexico, describes his family’s traditional way of razzing someone who just had a haircut. They shout Rinctums! (also spelled Rinktums!), and proceed to give the person a rough knuckle-rubbing on the back of their...

Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

Gee and Haw

The highly specialized vocabulary of people who work outdoors, communicating with sled dogs, a word from the sport of rock-climbing, church key, browse line, smeuse, nitnoy, mommick, zawn, zwer, boom dog, and I think my pig is whistling.