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More Impossible Events

Two examples of adynaton, the rhetorical term for playful exaggeration suggesting that something will never happen, involve animals’ tails. One German expression translates as “It’ll happen when the hounds start barking with their...

Take a Jaybird

Judy from Indianapolis, Indiana, remembers her great-aunt Fanny using the expression take a jaybird, meaning take a sponge bath. She explained it as when you wash under your wings and your tail feathers, and maybe polish off your beak. Great-aunt...

Neat but not Gaudy

Scott from Copper Canyon, Texas, wonders about a expression he heard from his childhood in the American South: neat but not gaudy. He understood it to mean appropriate, but not over the top. The expression goes back to 1600s and has many variations...

Episode 1434

Scat Cat

The dilemma continues over how to spell dilemma! Grant and Martha try to suss out the backstory of why some people spell that word with an “n.” A lot of them, it seems, went to Catholic school. Maybe that’s a clue? Plus, the saying...

Episode 1490

Bun in the Oven

How many different ways are there to say you have a baby on the way? You can say you’re pregnant, great with child, clucky, awkward, eating for two, lumpy, or swallowed a pumpkin seed? • The story behind the word...

A Bird’s Bishop’s Nose

A woman in Omaha, Nebraska, is puzzled when a friend refers to the fatty tail bump of a cooked chicken as the bishop’s nose. It may have to do with that part’s resemblance on a cooked chicken or turkey to a human nose, or perhaps to a...