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Episode 1543

Goody Two-Shoes

She sells seashells by the seashore. Who is the she in this tongue twister? Some claim it’s the young Mary Anning, who went on to become a famous 19th-century British paleontologist. Dubious perhaps, but the story of her rise from seaside...

Nose Open and Bonnaroo

Jennifer in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, has been in recovery from substance abuse for 29 years now, and still recalls some of the slang she heard back in the days when she was using illicit drugs. Her ex-husband used to say Now you got my nose open...

Open Book Rock Formation

An open book is a rock formation that looks just like its name. This specialized term is one of hundreds collected and explained in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. Such a rock formation is also called a dihedral. This is...

The Bridge is Open but Closed

Chelsea says that after moving from the Midwest to Norfolk, Virginia, she was confused by traffic reports indicating that a local bridge was open. Turns out the bridge is a drawbridge, and by open, the announcers were saying that the bridge was...

Episode 1469

Gone to Seed

This week on A Way with Words: Restaurant jargon, military slang, and modern Greek turns of phrase. • Some restaurants now advertise that they sell “clean” sandwiches. But that doesn’t mean they’re condiment-free or the...

Episode 1407

Hell’s Bells

The language of restaurant menus. Need a dictionary to get through a dinner menu? Research shows the longer the description of a particular dish, the more expensive it will be. Plus: What’s the best way to use a thesaurus? DON’T —...