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More than Four Seasons

Hayley, a poet, grew up in Kansas City, then moved to Minnesota’s Twin Cities. After the last two winters there, she’s begun to wonder: Have English speakers ever referred to more than four seasons in English? Do other cultures measure...

What’s a Pigeon Pair?

Nancy in Newport, Kentucky, says friends used to refer to her young son and daughter as a pigeon pair. Doves and pigeons tend to have two chicks at a time, and at one point, it was believed that these offspring consisted of one male and female...

Butter of Antimony, Flowers of Zinc

Butter of antimony, blue vitriol, flowers of zinc are terms used for centuries by alchemists, now replaced by the scientific names antimony trichloride, cupric sulfate, and powdered zinc oxide. In his delightful memoir Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a...

Pine Shatters

Chris calls from Nassawadox, Virginia, to say that on their second date his girlfriend used the term pine shadows for what he calls pine needles. Particularly in Virginia, the terms pine shadows and pine shatters denote those long thin leaves that...