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Episode 1587

Herd of Turtles

Some college students are using the word loyalty as a synonym for monogamy. Are the meanings of these words now shifting? Plus, a biologist discovers a new species of bat, then names it after a poet he admires. Also, warm memories of how a childhood...

Episode 1585

Diamond Dust

Diamond dust, tapioca snow, and sugar icebergs — a 1955 glossary of arctic and subarctic terms describes the environment in ways that sound poetic. And a mom says her son is dating someone who’s non-binary. She supports their relationship, but...

Episode 1541

Walkie Talkie

One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear — and one of the most poignant — isn’t in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The...

Episode 1526

Abso-Bloomin-Lutely

The autocomplete function on your phone comes in handy, of course. But is it changing the way we write and how linguists study language? Also, suppose you could invite any two authors, living or dead, to dinner. Who’s on your guest list and...

Are There Such Things as Perfect Synonyms?

Can words ever be perfect synonyms? No. Words can have approximate synonyms, but there are always shades of implicit and explicit meaning. Consider, for example, the terms butt and derrière. Although both refer to the same part of the anatomy, they...

Falling to Staves

Someone who’s really hungry might say I’m falling to staves, meaning they’re famished. It’s a reference to the way a barrel falls apart if the metal hoops that hold them together are removed. This is part of a complete...