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Episode 1538

Little Shavers

The word hipster might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s when it referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best nightclubs and cool music. Speaking of music, a professional musician reports that it’s...

Episode 1529

At First Blush

Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spanish-language adventure novel, an account of 19th-century dictionary wars, and a gorgeously illustrated...

Episode 1442

Whistle Pig

The dated term “jingoism” denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism but the word’s roots lie in an old English drinking-house song that was popular during wartime. Speaking of fightin’ words, the expression “out the side of...

Stars and Garters

Novelist Charles Dickens created many unforgettable characters, but he’s also responsible for coining or popularizing lots of words, like “flummox” and “butterfingers.” Also, the life’s work of slang lexicographer...

Since Hector was a Pup

Hector’s pup, or since Hector was a pup, is another way to say, “Oh, heck.” The expressions go back to the early 1900’s, when people were perhaps more familiar with the character of Hector from The Iliad. This is part of a...

Monkey’s Wedding

It’s the art of constructive feedback: If you’re a teacher with a mountain of papers to grade, you may find yourself puzzling over which kinds of notes in the margins work best. Martha and Grant discuss strategies for effective paper...