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Funny Laboratory Sign

A listener leaves us a voicemail about a sign his high school science teacher posted in the classroom to encourage students to keep the noise down. It read “Laboratory — more of the first 5, less of the last 7.” As in more of the first...

Episode 1512

Bottled Sunshine

If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term, adapted into English from Dutch, means “an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric.” And: What’s your relationship with the books on your...

Unusual Word for Ordinary Things

A teacher of English as a second language asks our Facebook group to name some unusual words for ordinary things. The group’s suggestions include winklehawk, which means an L-shaped tear in cloth, and diastema, which means a gap between...

Bad Vice and Vice President

Vice is a noun meaning bad behavior, but it’s also an adjective referring to an official who is second in command. Karen, a seventh- and eighth-grade history teacher in Waco, Texas, says her students wonder why. These two senses of vice come...

Busted Melon

When writing textbooks about slavery, which words best reflect its cold, hard reality? Some historians are dropping the word slave in favor of terms like enslaved person and captive, arguing that these terms are more accurate. And raising a...

Shoot a Bow vs. Shoot an Arrow

A ninth-grade English teacher in Canfield, Ohio, says that when her class reached the climactic scene in The Odyssey where Odysseus bends his mighty bow and kills his wife’s suitors, a student wondered whether the correct phrase is shoot a bow...