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Episode 1586

Mittens in Moonlight

Need a slang term that can replace just about any noun? 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...

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 1602

Touch Grass

High school students in Alabama share some favorite slang terms. If someone tells you to touch grass, they’re telling you to get a reality check — but the last thing you’d actually want to touch is dog water! Also, the history of the...

Episode 1583

Made from Scratch

Enthusiastic book recommendations! Martha’s savoring the biography of Alexander von Humboldt, the 19th-century explorer, polymath, and naturalist who revolutionized our understanding of nature and predicted the effects of human activity on...

Episode 1580

Beefed It

The words tough, through, and dough all end in O-U-G-H. So why don’t they rhyme? A lively new book addresses the many quirks of English by explaining the history of words and phrases. And: have you ever been in a situation where a group makes...