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Episode 1553

Play It by Ear

How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she was from another country, not only because of how she spoke, but also how she looked...

Are Garbage and Trash the Same Thing?

Jill in Shelton, Washington, says that when she lived in Southern California, she understood the word garbage to mean food scraps, with trash referring to everything else collected curbside. Historically, garbage has referred to the wet, disgusting...

Episode 1550

Queen Bee

An artist asks strangers to write haiku about the pandemic and gets back poetic, poignant glimpses of life under lockdown. Plus, the new book Queenspotting features the colorful language of beekeeping! Bees tell each other about a good source of...

Stuff in Baseball

Sarah from Leyden, Massachusetts, wonders about the many ways baseball commentators and sportswriters use the word stuff, as in “The stuff is there, but the command is off,” or “The kid’s got great stuff, but he’s only...

Spookasem, Ghost’s Breath

In South Africa, the word spookasem is a term for cotton candy, although it literally translates as ghost’s breath. Elsewhere in the English-speaking word, the sweet stuff is also called candy floss or fairy floss. This is part of a complete...