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Unwelcome Gifts

What do you call a gift that turns into a hassle, like a gift card for a store not in your area, or one with a pressing expiration date? A New York caller suggests the term gaft. Another possibility is white elephant, a term derived from the story...

The Big Apple

Why is New York City called the Big Apple? In the 1920s, a writer named John Fitz Gerald used it in a column about the horseracing scene, because racetrack workers in New Orleans would say that if a horse was successful down South, they’d send...

Strange Spelling Bee Words

Why do spelling bees include such bizarre, obsolete words as cymotrichous? Why is New York called the Big Apple? Also, the stinky folk medicine tradition called an asifidity bag, the surprising number of common English phrases that come directly...

Window Shopping

Window-shopping became popular pastime along New York’s 5th Avenue back in the days when stores closed at 5 p.m. Passersby would stroll past, gazing at the window displays without intending to purchase anything. The French term for...

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