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Episode 1586

Mittens in Moonlight

Need a slang term that can replace just about any noun? Try chumpie. If you’re from Philadelphia, you may already know this handy placeholder word. And there’s Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and … The Bronx — why do we add...

Junk in the Frunk

In an electric car, the trunk is in the front, not the back. Automotive engineers refer to this part of the vehicle as the frunk, a portmanteau of front and trunk. For a while, the Jaguar company, which is based in the UK, instead called it the...

A Better Word for “Deplaning”?

A flight attendant from Concord, North Carolina, is irritated by a word she must use often in her work: deplane, meaning “to leave an aircraft.” She knows this verb is effective and efficient, but she says that to her it seems inelegant...

Rambunctious Meaning and Origin

Jerry from Northern Virginia catches himself describing his poodle Pepper as rambunctious, the wonders how that word came to be. Its origin is uncertain, but it’s one of several long, playful coinages from the early 19th century, including...

Episode 1537

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

Is Scheming Negative or Neutral?

Bill, a substitute teacher in Fishers, Indiana, says that while visiting South Africa, he was surprised to hear an acquaintance use scheme to mean simply “a plan,” without no negative connotation whatsoever. In the UK and Commonwealth...