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Typewriters We Have Loved

Death of the Typewriter  Ding! In this week’s episode, Mark Twain would be pleased. Reports that it’s the end of the line for the typewriter have been greatly exaggerated. Well, slightly anyway: it’s not the horseless carriage...

Bite the Wax Tadpole

Martha and Grant discuss advertising slogans and product names supposedly botched in translation. They also recommend an eclectic mix of books for the word-lover on your holiday list, from military slang to Yiddish. Plus a slang quiz on the words...

Santa Anas

In California, everybody gets a little crazy when those hot, dry winds called Santa Anas start blowing. A caller asks the origin of the name. Is it a translation of Spanish for “Satan’s wind”? By the way, here’s that list of...

Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little

It’s the wacky title of a new book by language enthusiast Elizabeth Little which has Martha and Grant talking about whether Coca-Cola and Chevy ran into cultural translation problems when selling products abroad. Did the Chevy Nova really sell...

BONCOB

BONCOB  n.— «As those pseudo-silk purses now unravel, a new acronym has joined the financial argot: BONCOB, pronounced Bon-cob, according to debt traders. Translation (have the children leave the room now): “Bugger off, no chance of...

Mother’s Day factor

Mother’s Day factor  n.— «The trick is to load up the switch as much as possible, short of “blocking” or what telephone engineers refer to as “the Mother’s Day Factor.” Translation: Telephone traffic is typically...