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Sock it to Me (episode #1557)

In the 15th century, the word respair meant “to have hope again.” Although this word fell out of use, it’s among dozens collected in a new book of soothing vocabulary for troubled times. Plus, baseball slang: If a batter...

A Can of Corn in Baseball

A longtime baseball umpire wonders why the slang phrase can of corn refers to “an easily caught pop fly ball.” Another term for “a high fly ball” is rainmaker, suggesting that the ball goes up so far that it’s capable...

Clever Clogs (episode #1539)

Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won’t find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection...

Pop Your Clogs, Clever Clogs

Annie in Bend, Oregon, says that while living on a narrowboat in England several years ago, she encountered some intriguing slang: clever clogs, a slightly derogatory term for someone who’s a bit too smart for their own good, and pop your...

Niblings and Nieflings (episode #1525)

How do actors bring Shakespeare’s lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of people and places at certain points. That technique is called billboarding. And: Anyone for an...

Spill the Tea (episode #1521)

If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don’t want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in “truth.” To spill the T means to “pass along truthful information.” Plus...