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Episode 1536

The Black Dog

Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away — and some were as vicious as...

Origin of Hoodlum

The word hoodlum first pops up in the 1870’s in San Francisco to refer to the exact thing it does now: guys who are up to no good. In the journal Notes and Queries, you’ll find all kinds of discussion on hoodlum. This is part of a...

A Few Pickles Short of a Jar

“A few pickles short of a jar,” “a few peas short of a casserole,” “two French fries short of a Happy Meal”—this week, Martha and Grant discuss these and other full-deckisms, those clever ways to describe someone...

Word Births and Bird Words

Hi, ho! In this week’s episode, we discuss odd words, how children learn to talk, “in my wheelhouse,” “high as Cooter Brown,” and “good leather.” Greg Pliska metagrobolizes us with a quiz based on the 2011...

Both and “Bolth”

A San Francisco man confesses he routinely pronounces the word both as “bolth.” Grant gives him the results of an informal online survey that shows the caller he’s not alone—some 10 percent of respondents said they do the same...