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Out in the Bundus

Bundu is a Bantu word meaning “a largely uninhabited wild region far from town.” It was adopted into South African slang and ultimately into British English, and appears in the phrase out in the bundus, with the same meaning. Although it...

Episode 1537

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

Long John Donuts

Max from Sacramento, California, is curious about why the long, frosted doughnut with no filling that he grew up calling a long john goes by so many other names, including longie, bar doughnut, chocolate bar, maple bar, and maple stick. Food names...

Truth and Beauty

Malamute, kayak, and parka are just some of the words that have found their way into English from the language of indigenous people in northern climes. • In the 1970s, some scientists argued that two quarks should be called truth and beauty. • The...

Brass on Your Face

The expression to have brass on one’s face is used in the South Atlantic region of the United States to describe someone who is bold or overconfident. There’s a similar idea in the word brazen, which derives from an Old English word for brass. This...

Words in English from Native Languages

Craig, a whale biologist in Alaska, wonders how many words have been adopted into English from such languages as Inuit, Yupik, Tlingit and Inupiaq. Indigenous languages in the far North have contributed mukluk, malamute, kayak, and parka. The word...