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Paper Tiger Origin

Mateo in Richmond, Virginia, is curious about a story he heard about the term paper tiger, meaning “something that looks fearsome or ferocious, but is actually flimsy or weak.” It’s not from Tiger, a type of German tank used during...

Episode 1494

Put on the Dog

Why isn’t “you’re welcome” the default response to “thank you” for everyone? Plus lies that kids tell, Philadelphia lawyer, cowbelly, skutch, mind-bottling vs. mind-boggling, tsundoku, infanticipating, noisy piece...

Episode 1491

Crusticles and Fenderbergs

A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks with family members in Tagalog, he feels more soft-spoken, kind, and respectful. Research shows that...

Coffee Pot vs. Coffee Maker

Office workers in Richmond, Virginia, are having a dispute: Is the appliance that makes the coffee a coffee pot or a coffee maker? This is a classic case of synecdoche, where a single part—like the pot that holds the hot coffee—is used to refer to...

Buckeye Game

A listener from Richmond, Virginia, remembers an old game called buckeye that consists of metaphorically pulling someone’s leg, then calling Buckeye! and tugging one’s own lower eyelid. Martha suggests that it may be related to a 19th...