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Episode 1584

Sleepy Winks

It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton’s best-known novel. Today the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest asks contestants for fanciful first sentences that are similarly...

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...

Pepper Alley

A kindergartener misunderstands the name of an event at his school, insisting to his mother that he attended a pepper alley, not a pep rally. Let’s hope that’s the case, because pepper alley is actually 19th-century boxing slang for...

Episode 1569

Love Bites

The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking a piece of legislation. Plus, the language of yoga teachers: When doing a guided meditation, you may hear...