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Billy Tape Measure

Mary says her Illinois-born husband and father-in-law refer to a measuring tape as a billy. The word billy is used in a slangy sense to refer long lengths of metal, such a billy knife, and a Billy Box is a kind of toolbox, but the use of billy to...

Looking Brave

Peg in Papillion, Nebraska, has been reading Winston Graham’s Poldark series, which is set in Cornwall around the turn of the 19th century. The characters sometimes greet each other with, “You’re looking brave.” Although...

Run of the Mill Origins

Clementine, a young caller from Omaha, Nebraska, wonders why we use the term run-of-the-mill to describe something ordinary. The expression originates world of manufacturing, where a run of the mill is the entire run of things being produced...

A Sense of Library Wonder

A young patron’s sense of wonder at what the Toronto Public Library can offer her is super adorable. Libraries! This is part of a complete episode.

Easrspace

A Black Mountain, North Carolina, man is trying to popularize the word earspace, which he feels can be used in two different ways. One sense is the available time a person has to take in something by listening, as in “I have earspace for a new...

Little Known Meanings of List and Blow

The rarely used English noun list, meaning desire or craving, is entirely different from the word list that denotes a series of things. The little-used meaning is at the root of the term listless, which in its original sense meant a lack of desire...

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