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When “Evening” Means “Afternoon”

Joan grew up in Yorkshire, England, then moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. There she was surprised to hear some people use the term evening instead of afternoon to refer to “the period between noon and 5 p.m.” The word evening is used...

Episode 1510

Cootie Shot

Perfect sentences and slang that tickles your mind! A new book of writing advice says a good sentence “imposes a logic on the world’s weirdness” and pares away options for meaning, word by word. • Your musician friend may refer to...

As Dark as the Inside of A…

Pam in Eureka, California, says that when her mother and grandmother would enter a particularly dark room, they’d remark that it was dark as the inside of a goat. Mark Twain used the phrase dark as the inside of a cow in his book Roughing It...

Flop Sweat

Gerrymandering draws political boundaries to tip elections towards certain political parties. Originally, the word was pronounced “GARY-mandering” with a hard “g.” But why? And why did it change? • Mark Twain and Helen Keller...

Mark Twain and Helen Keller

Mark Twain and Helen Keller enjoyed a close, enduring friendship. When he learned that she was mortified was accused of plagiarism, he sent her a fond letter as touching as it was reassuring. This is part of a complete episode.

Mark Twain’s Writing Advice

Writing advice from Mark Twain, who was not a fan of adjectives. In The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, he says, “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.” He also wrote a letter with clever, useful advice that still holds true for the...