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Episode 1531

Loaded for Bear

One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature or Rainstorm & Egg or … just about any other two-word combination. A tongue-in-cheek website will generate names like...

Episode 1530

Mrs. Astor’s Horse

“What has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn’t a cat?” Answer: a kitten! A 1948 children’s joke book has lots of these to share with kids. Plus: an easy explanation for the difference between...

Nobody Knows Why Marijuana is “Pot”

Why is marijuana called pot ? Lexicographer David Maurer, an expert on underworld slang, once posited that pot is shortened from potiguaya, a term that, it turns out, isn’t Spanish. He later surmised that pot comes from potación de guaya...

Episode 1528

Gift Horse

The edge of the Grand Canyon. A remote mountaintop. A medieval cathedral. Some places are so mystical you feel like you’re close to another dimension of space and time. There’s a term for such locales: thin places. And: did you ever go...

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...

Episode 1628

Book Moth

If you skip wearing underwear, you’re said to be going commando. This bit of slang originated during the Vietnam War, when U.S. commandos had compelling reasons to do without that particular piece of clothing. Plus, Watergate salad is a...