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That Smarts!

A listener in Abilene, Texas, wonders about the expression that smarts! The verb to smart, meaning to sting or cause sharp pain, goes back more than a thousand years. The adjective smart, meaning intelligent, evolved from that sense of something...

Name-Letter Effect

Psychological research shows that when it comes to letters of the alphabet, people tend to like their own initials, perhaps because of a sense of ownership. This phenomenon is called the name-letter effect. This is part of a complete episode.

Work-Brittle

A Indianapolis, Indiana, woman remembers that her Kentucky-born grandfather used to say that a lazy person wasn’t very work-brickle. The dialectal term work-brickle is a variant of work-brittle, which, in the late 19th century, described...

Sun-Related Words and Their Relations

During a full solar eclipse you can see the sun’s glowing outer atmosphere, called the corona. In Latin, the term corona means “crown” or “garland.” It’s the source of coronation, as well as the coronary arteries...

Stir Crazy

A triathlete in Traverse City, Michigan, calls to say she’s going stir-crazy while recuperating from an injury. The term stir-crazy makes sense if you know that stir is an old synonym for “prison.” This is part of a complete...

Feeling Punk

A listener in Council Bluffs, Iowa, says his grandmother, born in 1899, used to say I’m feeling punk, meaning “I’m feeling ill.” The term derives from an older sense of punk meaning “rotted wood.” This is part of...

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