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Counting Time with One Mississippi

A Seattle, Washington, listener wants to know why, when marking time, we say “one Mississippi, two Mississippi,” as opposed to other states or rivers. In the United Kingdom, they’re more likely to say hippopotamus. Some people...

No-See-Ums

The term no-see-ums refers to those pesky gnats that come out in the heat and humidity and are so tiny they’re almost invisible. The term goes back at least as far as the 1830s, and is heard particularly in the Northeastern United States. This...

Digging to China

The idea of digging a hole to China surfaces as early as 1872 in a Chamber’s Journal fiction piece about beavers and engineers. Unfortunately, digging from almost anywhere in the United States would lead you to open water on the other end. To...

windshield cowboy

windshield cowboy  n.— «“We don’t ride horses at our ranch,” first lady Laura Bush told CNN. “My husband is what’s called ‘the windshield cowboy.’ That means we ride a pickup.”» —“Bush has brush with an old Texas...

play the float

play the float  v. phr.— «Writing checks for money that isn’t in your account is euphemistically called either “playing the float” or “kiting checks.”» —“Fighting those pesky NSF fees” by Don...

perp

perp  n.— «He ordered a Boston bull terrier and when the dog come accompanied by it’s [sic] pedygree it was found the pesky perp was born in some town in Wisconsin. Whaddyamean Boston bull?» —“Clunette Clippings” Lincoln...