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Episode 1537

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

Always Make Water When You Can

Madison in Wilmington, North Carolina, says that whenever her family was about to leave the house, her grandfather would tell them to take Churchill’s advice, which they all understood to be a reminder to use the bathroom before setting out...

Stranger: Shall I Play Mother?

One old sense of the word stranger means “a lone tea leaf floating in a cup of tea.” A longtime superstition holds that such a lone leaf means a stranger will soon show up at the door. In Britain, a host may offer to pour a cup of tea...

bilat

bilat  n.— «Air Force One touches down tonight at Sydney Airport with POTUS on board (Secret Service-speak for President Of The United States). Tomorrow morning Bush meets Prime Minister Howard for “bilats”—diplomatic slang for...

family photo

family photo  n.— «British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher spoke of the high cost of maintaining British manor houses. President Reagan recalled his cavalry service. Italian Premier Bettino Craxi almost missed the “family...

family photo

family photo  n.— «But judging by the pensive look on his face as he posed for a summit “family photo” beside British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Prodi knows...