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Skylarking, a Joyful Messing Around

While vacationing on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, a listener encountered an Australian who used the term skylarking to mean “horsing around.” The verb to skylark goes back hundreds of years and once referred to racing through the...

Episode 1616

Folding Money

Barbara Kingsolver’s book Demon Copperhead is a retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield set in today’s Appalachia. Martha shares memories of a long-ago visit to Kingsolver’s family farm in Virginia, where they...

What’s a Nonce Word?

Lorelei from Wakefield, Virginia, learned the word nonce from the Spelling Bee game in The New York Times. When she looked up the definition of nonce, she saw it described as an adjective that is coined for or used for one occasion. She found this...

Episode 1494

Put on the Dog

Why isn’t “you’re welcome” the default response to “thank you” for everyone? Plus lies that kids tell, Philadelphia lawyer, cowbelly, skutch, mind-bottling vs. mind-boggling, tsundoku, infanticipating, noisy piece...

Episode 1593

Word Hoard

Ever wonder what medieval England looked and sounded like? In Old English, the word hord meant “treasure” and your wordhord was the treasure of words locked up inside you. A delightful new book uses the language of that period to create...

Episode 1605

Big Bang

A savory Sicilian sausage roll is always a hit for the holidays. This dish goes by a long list of names that are equally delicious to say. Plus, why are those promotional quotes you see on the back of a book called blurbs? The guy who coined the...