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Dry Up and Bust

A North Carolina listener wonders about her mother’s comment in response to complaining or pestering: Go dry up and bust! Since the mid-1800s, the slang phrase Dry up! has meant Stop talking! In the theater world, the term dry up can mean to...

Baby Blues (episode #1542)

A hundred years ago, suffragists lobbied to win women the right to vote. Linguistically speaking, though, suffrage isn’t about “suffering.” It’s from a Latin word that involves voting. Plus: military cadences often include...

Clever Clogs (episode #1539)

Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won’t find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection...

Where Does the American Southern Drawl Come From?

Barbara in Norfolk, Virginia, wonders about the drawl of Southern American English. A great resource on how people perceive others’ dialects is the work of linguist Dennis Preston and his book Perceptual Dialectology. This is part of a...

Why Do We Imitate People’s Accents To Their Faces?

Amber in Mansfield, Texas, has a friend from London, England. After she moved to the States, the friend was surprised to find that when she’s conversing with strangers from the United States, they’ll drop in what Americans think of as...

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