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How Do You Pronounce “Brooch”?

A New York Times article about that trendy accessory, the brooch, prompts a question: How do you pronounce brooch? Does it rhyme with pooch or coach? It’s more commonly pronounced to rhyme with coach, although some dictionaries do countenance...

Can’t Died; His Brother is Try

The phrases Can’t died in the poorhouse, Can’t died in the war, and Can’t died in the cornfield are all jocular ways of encouraging someone to persevere despite difficulties or long odds. Sometimes this notion involves the...

Empty Wagons Make the Most Noise

Marjorie in Huntsville, Alabama, wonders about the saying Empty wagons make the most noise suggesting that the people who talk the most about a subject aren’t necessarily the most knowledgeable. This notion goes all the way back to ancient...

Mary Anning Sells Seashells

She sells seashells by the seashore. The shells she sells are seashells I’m sure, so if she sells seashells on the seashore, then I’m sure she sells seashore shells. Some claim that this tongue twister is about the early life of 19th...

To Fret Someone

At our recent appearance in Dallas, Texas, a listener asked about the use of fret as a transitive verb, as in “Don’t fret that child.” This usage is particularly common in the American South, and comes from the old notion of fret...

Lay an Egg Origins and Meaning

Kieran in Huntsville, Alabama, wonders about the term laid an egg meaning performed badly. The expression to lay an egg goes back at least as far as cricket matches in the 1860s, where duck’s egg referred to a zero on a scoreboard. Later in...