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Episode 1470

Coast is Clear

In the military, if you’ve lost the bubble, then you can’t find your bearings. The term first referred to calibrating the position of aircraft and submarines. • The phrase the coast is clear may originate in watching for invaders...

The Coast is Clear

A woman in Vancouver, Washington, wants to know the origin of the phrase the coast is clear, meaning “it’s safe to proceed.” It most likely has to do with a literal coast, whether from the perspective of a ship at sea or guards...

Episode 1395

Keep Your Pants On

If everyone on the planet spoke a single language, wouldn’t that make life a whole lot easier? For that matter, is a common world language even possible? Maybe for a minute or so—until new words and phrases start springing up. Also, did you...

With Love from Us to You

Rabbit, Rabbit! In our latest archive edition, we dispense writing advice, discuss funny Spanish idioms, survey the wide array of names for grandparents, and talk about “fixin’ to,” “I’m all set,” and the ditty...

Keep At Bay

To keep something at bay means to maintain a safe distance from it. But does this expression derive from an old practice of using bay leaves to ward off pestilence? This is part of a complete episode.

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