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Mess and Gaum

Marcus in Kingsport, Tennessee, says that as children, if he and his sister left snacks or crumbs around the kitchen, his mother would say in exasperation that all the kids ever wanted to do was to mess and gaum. The word gaum means “a greasy...

Episode 1533

Life of Riley

Unwrap the name of a candy bar, and you just might find a story inside. For instance, one chewy treat found in many a checkout lane is named after a family’s beloved horse. And: 50 years ago in the United States, some Latino elementary...

Don’t Get Into Any Jackpots

Ron, who lives in North Pole, Alaska, is curious about an admonition from his mother: Don’t get into any jackpots. This expression, which dates back to the 1800s, refers to getting trapped into adding bets to a round of high-stakes poker...

Episode 1451

Punch List

Books for sale, books for free, and wisdom passed down through the ages. Libraries aren’t just repositories for books — they’re often a great place to find gently used volumes for sale. Or you can always visit a “little free...

Auntie Word Quiz

Quiz Guy John Chaneski invites us to a party to meet all of his dear “aunties” — as in the “auntie” who makes sure your oily hair doesn’t mess up the furniture. This is part of a complete episode.

Hot Mess

Sneaky contract lingo, advice for writing well, and preserving a dying language. Say you’re scrolling through an online transaction where you’re asked to read the “Terms and Conditions.” Do you actually read them or just check the...