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Episode 1509

Ding-Ding Man

In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for classifying clouds — with Latin names we still use today, like cumulus, cirrus, and stratus. Also: when...

Diegetic and Non-Diegetic

In film production, the term diegetic refers to a sound that occurs within the story itself that the characters supposedly hear, whereas non-diegetic sound refers to background music or narration. For example, the tune played by the pianist in...

Rhetorical Backoffs

Eric in Fairbanks, Alaska, notes the use of the phrase “I’m just saying” as a way to soften one’s comment or avoid responsibility for an observation. Some linguists call such a statement a rhetorical backoff. Other examples...

Shoot a Bow vs. Shoot an Arrow

A ninth-grade English teacher in Canfield, Ohio, says that when her class reached the climactic scene in The Odyssey where Odysseus bends his mighty bow and kills his wife’s suitors, a student wondered whether the correct phrase is shoot a bow...

Light Bulbs Mean Ideas

In comic strips, a bright idea is symbolized by a light bulb over a character’s head. This association between an incandescent bulb and inspiration was popularized in the early 20th century by the cartoon character Felix the Cat, but the...