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Episode 1519

Keep Your Powder Dry

Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms — that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub called a jacuzzi. And the word silhouette commemorates a penny-pinching treasury secretary who lasted...

Episode 1499

Truth and Beauty

Malamute, kayak, and parka are just some of the words that have found their way into English from the language of indigenous people in northern climes. • In the 1970s, some scientists argued that two quarks should be called truth and beauty. • The...

Episode 1610

Big Dog

If you’re ever near a sundial, step closer and look for a message. Many sundials bear haunting, poetic inscriptions about the brevity of life. Plus, language development in toddlers: why and how little ones pick up the exclamation Uh-oh! And a...

Never Cook Your Cabbage Twice

Diane calls from eastern North Carolina to talk about a phrase her father used if she asked him to repeat something: I never chew my celery twice. He probably conflated the idea of chewing celery with some far more common expressions involving doing...

So Mad I Could Spit Nickels

Juice in Genoa, New York, remembers her mother used to say I am so mad I could spit nickels. It’s one of several variations on the idea of being angry enough to spit, period, or to spit something specific, such as spit tacks, spit nails, spit...