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“Ta-Da” Echoes a Musical Flourish

Julie from Jacksonville, Florida, shares a lovely story of her husband’s increasing use of the word Ta-da! In lieu of other words or to point out a success. Ta-da! references the sound of a musical flourish, such as that of a trumpet. This is...

Pobblebonk

A pobblebonk is an Australian bullfrog that doesn’t croak so much as make a kind of plonking sound. For this reason, it’s also called a banjo frog — and it really does sound like a banjo! This is part of a complete episode.

Aliquot

A chemistry professor in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, says a word that she uses in the lab is also handy in everyday life. To aliquot something means “to divide into equal portions.” In piano construction, aliquot scaling involves adding...

Xylyl Meaning and Origins

Olivia, a sixth-grader in Somerville, New Jersey, says she and her classmates were flummoxed by a word on their spelling-bee study list: xylyl. It’s a term from chemistry, referring to a group of atoms derived from a liquid called xylene. One...

Fank and Fankle

In Scotland, a fank is “a coil of rope” or “snare,” and to fankle means to “tangle up,” as in My earbuds are fankled. This is part of a complete episode.

Guitars as Axes and Woodshedding

Johanna in Munising, Michigan, has a funny story about a childhood misunderstanding. Guitarists sometimes refer to their instrument as an ax. But at least as early as the 1940s, the slang term ax referred to other instruments, including trombones...