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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...

Pronunciation of Measure

Anna, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, wonders if it’s okay to pronounce the word measure as ‘meɪʒər (rhyming with “hey sure”) instead of ‘mɛʒər (rhyming with “treasure”). This pronunciation is...

Episode 1515

Colonial English

The anatomy of effective prose, and the poetry of anatomy. Ever wonder what it’d be like to audit a class taught by a famous writer? A graduate student’s essay offers a taste of a semester studying with author Annie Dillard. Also, what...

Buckle Down

It’s time for book recommendations! Martha’s enjoying an armchair tour of important places in the history of our language, and Grant recommends relaxing with books that make great reading for both children and adults. Plus, are you the...

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...