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Naming Nature

For a fantastic read about the history of taxonomy and the ways we use language to try to divide up and impose order on the world, check out Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science (Bookshop|Amazon) by science writer Carol Kaesuk Yoon...

Episode 1530

Mrs. Astor’s Horse

“What has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn’t a cat?” Answer: a kitten! A 1948 children’s joke book has lots of these to share with kids. Plus: an easy explanation for the difference between...

Raise the Window Down

Eva in Fairbanks, Alaska, wonders why her grandmother used to say raise the window down when she wanted someone to open that window. This is part of a complete episode.

Jacked-Up

Is being jacked up a good thing or a bad thing? It depends. To jack up means “to raise up,” as with a car on a lift. But jack up also has a negative meaning, perhaps deriving from hijack or blackjack, suggesting that something’s...

Children vs. Kids

Is it wrong to refer to children as kids? One discerning mother, when asked about her kids, always replied, “I don’t raise goats, but my children are fine.” Grant explains that as early as the 1600s, the word kids had popped up to...