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Episode 1577

Mystery Date

A librarian opens a book and finds a mysterious invitation scribbled on the back of a business card. Another discovers a child’s letter to the Tooth Fairy, tucked into a book decades ago. What stories are left untold by these forgotten...

Boo-Boo Boo-Hoo

Seven-year-old Everett from Tallahassee, Florida, wants to know why we refer to a scrape or other minor injury as a boo-boo. Such reduplication of words and syllables is common in baby talk used to soothe a child. Also, boo-boo sounds a little like...

Episode 1531

Loaded for Bear

One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature or Rainstorm & Egg or … just about any other two-word combination. A tongue-in-cheek website will generate names like...

Helter-Skelter Reduplicatives

Jerrell in San Antonio, Texas, is curious about the term helter-skelter, meaning “haphazardly.” English is full of such reduplicatives, also called rhyming jingles, flip-flop words, or echo words. They fall into three categories: one...

Episode 1517

Hair on Your Tongue

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. • The best writers create...