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Ciunas, Quiet

The Irish word ciunas or chiúnas means “silence” or “quiet” — a useful thing for teachers to shout when trying to quiet a noisy classroom. Lexicographer Niall Ó Dónaill’s notation on this word includes the lovely...

At First Blush

Jeanne from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, is perplexed by the phrase at first blush, which would seem to have to do with embarrassment. But at least as early as the mid-14th century, another meaning of blush has been “glance,” so at first...

Knowledge Box

Knowledge box is an old slang term for noggin; one 1755  describes someone who “almost cracked his knowledge box.” This is part of a complete episode.

Hang a Salami

What’s so special about the phrase Sit on a pan, Otis? It’s an example of a palindrome — a word or phrase that’s spelled the same backwards as it is forwards. This year’s contest known as the Oscars of the palindrome...

Words Without Antonyms

Disgruntled means “unhappy,” and gruntled means the opposite, although you almost never hear the latter. Playing with such unpaired words can be irresistible, whether you’re a poet or an essayist for The New Yorker. This is part of...

Rhyming Headlines Quiz

Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game of rhyming headlines based on the 1937 Variety issue, “Sticks Nix Hick Pix,” claiming that rural folks avoid movies about rural folks. This is part of a complete episode.