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Tongue Lie Bumps

Ash from Arlington, Texas, says her great-aunt would refer to a red bump on one’s tongue as a lie bump. This expression is widespread enough to be used in medical textbooks, although papillitis is the official term, papillae being the...

Episode 1544

Hog on Ice

One secret to writing well is … there is no secret! There’s no substitute for simply sitting down day after day to practice the craft and learn from your mistakes. Plus, childhood mixups around word definitions can lead to some funny stories...

Smithereens Origins

David in Austin, Texas, wonders if smithereens, meaning “bits” or “fragments,” as in explode into smithereens, refers to little bits of metal left over from blacksmithing. Actually, the origin of smithereen is uncertain...

Hornicaboogery

A Texas caller says her West Virginia-born mother uses the word hornicaboogery to mean “germs” or “the creeping crud.” Among the many such joking names for imaginary illnesses are gollywobbles, collywobbles, carlymarbles...

Episode 1517

Hair on Your Tongue

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling experience is so common among polyglots that linguists have a name for it. • The best writers create...

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