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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...

What a Hotsy-Totsy Tchotchke

The word tchotchke, pronounced CHOTCH-kee, means “knickknack” or “trinket.” Also spelled chotchkie or tsatske, this word was borrowed into English from Yiddish tshatshke, and is cognate with several words that mean...

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 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

Well, Glorgy Be!

If you’re tired of saying It’s hot outside, you always say It’s glorgy, pronounced with hard g sounds. This Scottish word may derive from an old word meaning “soft mud.” You could also say the weather is pothery, an...

Episode 1597

I Don’t Have the Spoons

Whether it’s a Rubik’s cube or a round of Wordle, why do so many of us find puzzles irresistible? A new book celebrates the allure and psychological benefits of brain teasers. Plus, powerful language for talking about the chronic...