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Grandmother = One Pound

Our earlier conversation about gram weenies, another name for ultralight backpackers, prompted a San Diego, California, man to write with the story of Bill Lear, the inventor of the LearJet, who once said he’d trade his own grandmother for a...

Origin of “Flea Market”

A flea market is a type of bazaar, usually outdoors, where vendors of secondhand and discount goods sell their wares. But why flea market? The term probably reflects the influence of two linguistic strains: In 18th-century New York City, the Fly...

Garage-Sailing

The guy who may be the nation’s foremost garage sale expert called us from Crescent City, California, with a question that’s vital for anyone writing or thinking about garage sales: Do the verbs garage-saling or yard-saling refer to the...

Eastern Seaboard, West Coast

Shadowdabbled. Moon-blanched. Augusttremulous. William Faulkner often used odd adjectives like these. But why? Grant and Martha discuss the poetic effects of compressed language. Also, African-American proverbs, classic children’s books, pore...

Purfling

A violin maker wonders about the origin of a practice in his trade known as purfling, where a black and white line is inlaid into a tiny channel along the edge of the instrument. Martha traces the word back to the Latin filum, meaning...