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Pank and a Finnish Proverb

Frida in Marquette, Michigan, shares a proverb from her Finnish heritage that translates as “Until the food is ready, feed your guests with words.” She also asks about pank, a term she often hears there in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan...

Spill the Tea (episode #1521)

If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don’t want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in “truth.” To spill the T means to “pass along truthful information.” Plus...

Dirty Laundry (#episode 1520)

When you had sleepovers as a child, what did you call the makeshift beds you made on the floor? In some places, you call those bedclothes and blankets a pallet. This word comes from an old term for “straw.” And: What’s the story...

“Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite” Origin

Claire from Wilmington, North Carolina, wants to know the origin of the phrase “sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” She heard a story she heard about the saying having to tightening ropes that support mattresses, which is not...

Keep Your Powder Dry (episode #1519)

Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms — that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub called a jacuzzi. And the word silhouette commemorates a penny-pinching treasury secretary who lasted...

Keep Your Powder Dry

Shelby calls from Rockville, Indiana, to ask about the origin of the phrase keep your powder dry. Many people surmise it derives from words uttered by Oliver Cromwell, but there’s no recorded evidence of this. The phrase first pops up in the...

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