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A Leg Up

Ali in Toronto, Canada, wonders about the expression to give or have a leg up, meaning “to be a step ahead of everyone.” The phrase comes from the idea of providing assistance to someone getting up into a saddle. A similar expression is...

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...

Storks Roosting in Our Language

In certain ancient traditions, storks were associated with kindness and family devotion. The Hebrew word for this leggy bird is chasidah, meaning “the kindly one,” from chesed, or “loving kindness.” Storks were also highly...

Episode 1512

Bottled Sunshine

If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term, adapted into English from Dutch, means “an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric.” And: What’s your relationship with the books on your...

Have a Nice Rest of Your Day

Cora from Cleveland, Ohio, notes that cashiers in stores often say good-bye to her with the phrase “Have a nice rest of your day.” She’s charmed by its use, and wonders if the phrase is on the rise and whether it’s confined...

‘Puter Principle

What do you call an upgrade gone wrong? Perhaps the ‘Puter Principle could be the software equivalent of the Peter Principle, which in business means that every employee in a hierarchy tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. This is...