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Humpty-Twelve and Telephone Number Quantities

Following up on our conversation about indefinite hyperbolic numerals like forty-eleven and zillion, we discuss humpty-twelve. Another slang term used to denote a large quantity is telephone numbers, which can be applied to “an excessive...

Beefed it or Biffed It, You Fell Hard

Josh in Binghamton, New York, wonders about the slang term beefed it, meaning to “took a hard fall.” It’s probably connected to biff, often used in snowboarding and mountain biking, meaning “to fail” or do badly.”...

Little Bits of Body Latin and Their Relatives

In anatomical nomenclature, a bursa is a fluid-filled sac that helps cushion a joint. Bursa is the Latin word for “purse,” the source of English purse itself, as well as the bursar who controls the purse strings in a college, plus...

Book It! Leaving In A Hurry

What’s the origin of the slang term book it!, meaning “depart quickly”? Since slang terms often cross-pollinate, it’s possible that by the 1960s and 1970s this expression formed at the confluence of three other slang terms:...

Deadpan Expression

Deadpan, an adjective used to describe a flat or unsmiling affect, as in deadpan humor, derives from the use of pan as a slang term for “face.”

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