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Medieval Book Thief Curses

To warn away thieves, medieval scribes sometimes added a written curse to the colophon of a precious book. Curses were once considered such powerful deterrents that they were sometimes added to Anglo-Saxon legal documents. This is part of a complete...

Bozo Buttons

Michael in San Diego, California, plays a game with his three-year-daughter that involves spotting small round property markers in the sidewalk, which he calls bozo buttons. His mother played the same game as a youngster, but calls those metal discs...

Naming Aspirin

Aspirin is now a generic drug, but it was once a brand-name product made by Bayer. It’s just one of many genericized trademarks, also known as proprietary eponyms, which includes not only aspirin, but kerosene, dry ice, and cellophane. This is...

split roll

split roll  n.— «“The whole system is completely unenforceable,” says Lenny Goldberg, a Sacramento lobbyist who, as director of the California Tax Reform Assn., has been pressing for years to institute a “split roll”—that...

MobMov

MobMov  n.— «Guerrilla drive-ins or “MobMovs”—shorthand for mobile movies—are popping up around the country in a variety of configurations. Unlike Young’s old-school use of real film, guerrilla drive-ins typically eschew the...

cash for keys

cash for keys  n.— «The celebration started early Saturday, with poolside music and drinks, as partygoers passed around business cards and compared notes on successful techniques for evicting residents who try to stay in bank-owned...