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Episode 1604

Snookums and Snicklefritz

A new book about how animals perceive their environment reveals immense worlds beyond our own. A bee can see ultraviolet light, catfish have taste buds all over their bodies, and manatees use highly sensitive lips to examine nearby objects. Also...

Canuper, a Cocktail or Stiff Drink

Pete in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wonders about the word canooper, which he’s heard used to refer to a type of alcoholic beverage. Also spelled kanuper, this word is rarely found outside Minnesota. Its origin is uncertain, although Red Fisher...

Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction

The new online Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction is a comprehensive, quotation-based online resource that’s a delight for language lovers of all kinds, and a treasure trove for sci-fi fans. It’s the work of lexicographer Jesse...

Spill the T vs. Spill the Tea

Debra, who teaches eighth graders in San Antonio, Texas, says some of them use the expression spill the tea meaning “spill the beans” or “share gossip.” The earliest version of this phrase, which appears in print in the early...

Whistle Britches

Writers and where they do their best creative work. A new book on Geoffrey Chaucer describes the dark, cramped, smelly room where he wrote his early work. Which raises the question: What kind of space do you need to produce your best writing...