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Episode 1601

Funny Papers

There are word nerds, and then there’s the woman who set up a folding chair on sidewalks throughout the country, cheerfully dispensing tips about grammar. She recounts her adventures in a new book. And the story of the brilliant pioneer of...

Why “Comb” in “Comb Graves”?

Comb graves, featuring two long slabs laid over the grave to form a peaked roof, are found in parts of the Southern United States, but primarily in Tennessee. Comb in this sense is an architectural word that refers to “the peak of a...

Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

Silver Thaw

In the Eastern and Southern United States, freezing rain that leaves everything covered with ice is simply known as an ice storm. In the Pacific Northwest, this sort of rain followed by a hard freeze goes by a more poetic name: silver thaw. This is...

Episode 1575

Not My Circus

Throwing cheese and shaky cheese are two very different things. In baseball, hard cheese refers to a powerful fastball, and probably comes from a similar-sounding word in Farsi, Urdu, and Hindi. Shaky cheese, on the other hand, is the grated...