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Right as Rain

Jeffrey in New Bern, North Carolina, wonders why we use the phrase right as rain to mean “all satisfactory” or “quite correct.” No one’s sure about the origin of this expression, although it may reflect positive...

Episode 1586

Mittens in Moonlight

Need a slang term that can replace just about anynoun? Try chumpie. If you’re from Philadelphia, you may already know this handy placeholder word. And there’s Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and … The Bronx — why do we add...

Pull The Other One With Bells On

In English, if you doubt what someone is telling you, you can say so with such idioms as Stop pulling my leg or Pull the other one — it has bells on. Other languages have similarly colorful phrases for expressing skepticism. In French, you might say...

Looks Like They Stepped Out Of A Bandbox

Susan from Cocker City, Kansas, says her mother used to describe someone who appeared impeccably dressed with the phrase She looked like she stepped out of a bandbox. In the 17th century, the word band could denote a garment collar, sometimes...

Episode 1563

Ring-Tailed Tooter

National Book Award winner Barry Lopez had wise advice for young writers. First, read widely and follow your curiosity. Second, travel or learn a foreign language. And third, find out what you truly believe, because if you’re not writing from...

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...