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Episode 1577

Mystery Date

A librarian opens a book and finds a mysterious invitation scribbled on the back of a business card. Another discovers a child’s letter to the Tooth Fairy, tucked into a book decades ago. What stories are left untold by these forgotten...

Is There a Tail in Telltale Sign?

Ten-year-old Alex, from Oceanside, California, wonders if a cat’s flicking tail inspired the expression telltale sign, meaning “an indicator.” The word is telltale, not its soundalike telltail. About 400 years ago, a telltale was a...

Lacerates Falling from My Eyes

Back when George W. Bush was a student at a New England prep school, he took to the thesaurus to impress a teacher, and wound up using a synonym for the wrong meaning for tear. Hence, the telltale phrase lacerates falling from my eyes wound up in...

Hell’s Bells

The language of restaurant menus. Need a dictionary to get through a dinner menu? Research shows the longer the description of a particular dish, the more expensive it will be. Plus: What’s the best way to use a thesaurus? DON’T —...

Days of Wine Flights and Mullets

Barack Obama wants to put people to work building roads and bridges. But how about a federal jobs program for out-of-work writers? Also: why do we call it a flight of wine? How did the haircut called a mullet get its name?

Devil Strip

What do you call the strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk? Depending on where you live, you may call it a tree lawn, a berm, a city strip, the parking, or one of a host of other regional terms for it. In a small part of the country...