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A Different Kind of Colorful Flag

John from Dallas, Texas, was surprised to learn that a relative who said she was on her way to plant flags at a loved one’s gravesite meant she was going to plant flowers. In addition to meaning “cloth banner,” the word flag is...

Episode 1553

Play It by Ear

How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she was from another country, not only because of how she spoke, but also how she looked...

Starblossoms Word Game

Quiz Guy John Chaneski is puzzling over one-word compound synonyms. For example, in the sentence While pretty, the bouquet was dominated by a rather large starblossom, the word starblossom might clue what tall plant that many associate with Vincent...

Episode 1534

Skookum

So you’ve long dreamed of writing fiction, but don’t know where to begin? There are lots of ways to get started — creative writing classes, local writing groups, and books with prompts to get you going. The key is to get started, and...

Rare False Friends

You might assume that the Welsh word plant means the same thing it does in English, but this word is a linguistic false friend. The Welsh word plentyn means “child,” and the word plant means “children.” Some false friends are...

The Best Time

A proverb on a bench in San Diego’s Balboa Park reads: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” This is part of a complete episode.