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Episode 1586

Mittens in Moonlight

Need a slang term that can replace just about any noun? Try chumpie. If you’re from Philadelphia, you may already know this handy placeholder word. And there’s Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and … The Bronx — why do we add...

Episode 1581

Your Imaginary Boyfriend

We use the term Milky Way for that glowing arc across the sky. But how people picture it varies from culture to culture. In Sweden, that starry band goes by a name that means “Winter Street,” and in Hawaii, a term for the Milky Way...

Rope vs. Line, Sailors vs. Landlubbers

Tim is a rancher, dogsledder, and a former commercial fisherman in Alaska. He’s observed that the words rope and line are used differently in each of those professions depending on context, and using them incorrectly can mark a person as a...

Pull The Other One With Bells On

In English, if you doubt what someone is telling you, you can say so with such idioms as Stop pulling my leg or Pull the other one — it has bells on. Other languages have similarly colorful phrases for expressing skepticism. In French, you might say...

Overhauling Has Nautical History

In nautical parlance, if you slacken a rope by pulling in the opposite direction to separate the blocks in a block-and-tackle system, you’re said to overhaul it — the inspiration for the more general term that means to “change...