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Know Your Onions

Mike in Ukiah, California, grew up in the UK, where he often heard the expression to know your onions, meaning “to be knowledgeable about something.” He suspects the phrase is rhyming slang, but It’s most likely one of many...

Episode 1612

Fair Dinkum

A magnificent new book celebrates the richness and diversity of 450 years of written and spoken English in what is now the United States. It’s called The People’s Tongue, and it’s a sumptuous collection of essays, letters, poems...

Tarzan of the Flowerpot

If you want to describe people who have an overly high opinion of themselves, here’s some handy Spanish slang: In Argentina, you might describe such a person as Tarzán de maceta, or “Tarzan of the flowerpot.” You might also call...

Cut a Chogie, Brookyn Boy

Vince from Brooklyn, New York, remembers growing up there and using the expression cut a chogi! to mean “beat it!” or “get away from here!” He’d assumed it was simply Brooklynese until years later in Alabama, when he...

Episode 1494

Put on the Dog

Why isn’t “you’re welcome” the default response to “thank you” for everyone? Plus lies that kids tell, Philadelphia lawyer, cowbelly, skutch, mind-bottling vs. mind-boggling, tsundoku, infanticipating, noisy piece...

Episode 1593

Word Hoard

Ever wonder what medieval England looked and sounded like? In Old English, the word hord meant “treasure” and your wordhord was the treasure of words locked up inside you. A delightful new book uses the language of that period to create...