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Episode 1596

Excuse the Hogs

When a teenager went a week without talking as part of a school project, he noticed a surprising side effect: Instead of rehearsing a response to what other people were saying to him, he was focused on listening — and feeling smarter as a result...

Dressing the Bed Means Making the Bed

Janet calls from Aiken, South Carolina, to say that her father used to ask Have you dressed your bed? meaning “Have you made your bed?” The word dress likely derives from Latin dirigere, meaning “to straighten” or “to...

Excuse the Pig, the Hog’s Out Walking

Eileen from Chesapeake, Virginia, recalls her mother’s response whenever someone in their family burped: Excuse the pigs, the hogs went out for a walk. It’s a mild reprimand (or apology, if the speaker is the one who burped), and there...

Episode 1593

Word Hoard

Ever wonder what medieval England looked and sounded like? In Old English, the word hord meant “treasure” and your wordhord was the treasure of words locked up inside you. A delightful new book uses the language of that period to create...

Long Shot vs. Long Chalk

Peter from Camden, New Jersey, wonders about the phrases not by a long chalk and not by a long shot. The former is used in the United Kingdom, while the latter is commonly used in the United States. Both suggest the idea of missing a mark by a...

Origin of the Word “Paraphernalia”

Rachel from Ashland, Virginia, wonders about the origin of paraphernalia, or “items belonging to a particular person or used for a particular activity.” In ancient Greece, the pherna was a bride’s dowry, and the parapherna was her...