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Episode 1584

Sleepy Winks

It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton’s best-known novel. Today the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest asks contestants for fanciful first sentences that are similarly...

Episode 1579

Forty-Eleven Zillion

When there’s no evening meal planned at home, what do you call that scramble to cobble together your own dinner? Some people apply acronyms like YOYO — “you’re on your own” — or CORN, for “Clean Out your Refrigerator...

Episode 1561

Mudlarking

Twice a day the River Thames recedes, revealing a muddy shoreline. Hobbyists known as mudlarks stroll the surface searching for objects that have found their way into the river over the centuries, everything from ancient Roman jewelry to modern...

Episode 1560

Snaggletooth

Many of us struggled with the Old English poem “Beowulf” in high school. But what if you could actually hear “Beowulf” in the English of today? There’s a new translation by Maria Dahvana Headley that uses contemporary...

Zarf Hot Drink Sleeves

What do you call the cardboard sleeve that goes over a paper cup to keep your hand from getting too hot? A San Antonio, Texas, listener knows that the technical term for this sleeve is zarf, a word that comes from Arabic, originally denoting an...