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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...

Foreign Origin of an English Idiom

The idiom safe and sound tells the story of the English language in three words: safe comes from French, and sound is a Germanic word with the same root as Gesundheit, meaning “health.” This is part of a complete episode.

Half Full of What?

If you see the trash can as half full, does that make you an optimist or a pessimist? Since it’s half full of garbage, as opposed to daisies or puppies, it’s questionable. On the other hand, in the tweeted words of Jill Morris:...

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.