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Pax, a Truce Term

A man who grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, says that when he and his friends were playing a game of tag and wanted to take a break they would call “Pax!” This Latin word for peace used in this way is what’s called a truce term. Other non...

Hell for Leather

Victorian slang and a modern controversy over language and gender. In the early 1900’s, a door-knocker wasn’t just what visitors used to announce their arrival, it was a type of beard with a similar shape. And in the 21st century: Is it...

Alte Kacker, Old Cocker

A Tallahassee, Florida, listener heard an interview in which actor William H. Macy referred to old cockers, apparetly meaning “old fellows.” Although one meaning of cocker is “pal,” Macy was probably alluding to the Yiddish...

Calling the Kids “Mama” and “Papa”

In Arabic-speaking families, it’s not uncommon for mothers to address their children with the Arabic word for “mama” or for fathers to use the word for “father” when addressing their offspring. These words are used in...

Stroppy

The slang term stroppy is an adjective meaning “annoying” or “difficult to deal with.” It might be related to the similarly unpleasant word, obstreperous. This is part of a complete episode.

How We Finish Conversations

A customer-service representative from Seattle, Washington, is curious about the phrases people use as a part of leave-taking when they’re finishing a telephone conversation. Linguists who conduct discourse analysis on such conversations say...

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