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Episode 1513

Howling Fantods

Are there words and phrases that you misunderstood for an embarrassingly long time? Maybe you thought that money laundering literally meant washing drug-laced dollar bills, or that AM radio stations only broadcast in the morning? • A moving new...

Thunderous Epiphanies

On Twitter, columnist Shannon Proudfoot asks: What’s the most mundane but thunderous epiphany you ever had? Something so ridiculously dull or elementary that still bowled you over when you figured it out? Some of the answers had to do with...

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...

Episode 1504

Up Your Alley

Book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, how about novels with an upbeat message? Publishers call this genre up lit. Plus, a clergyman ponders an arresting phrase in...

Spendthrift Origins

Judy from Tallahassee, Florida, is curious about the word spendthrift, which means someone who spends money freely. The word thrift in this case means wealth, and is the past participle of thrive. A more obvious word that means the same thing:...

Lie Like a Rug

The words we choose can change attitudes — and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples. He says that using words like “leader” and “follower” actually works better...