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Episode 1587

Herd of Turtles

Some college students are using the word loyalty as a synonym for monogamy. Are the meanings of these words now shifting? Plus, a biologist discovers a new species of bat, then names it after a poet he admires. Also, warm memories of how a childhood...

Help Writing Historical Fiction Right

Judy in Fort Worth, Texas, is writing some historical fiction. What are some tips for representing the dialect and vernacular of a particular time and place with accuracy? One great resource is the Dictionary of American Regional English. Another...

Whistle Britches

Writers and where they do their best creative work. A new book on Geoffrey Chaucer describes the dark, cramped, smelly room where he wrote his early work. Which raises the question: What kind of space do you need to produce your best writing...

Dialects of Crayon

Do you pronounce crayon like crown? This common variation tends to be a Midlands pronunciation. Americans may pronounce this word several ways, as this dialect map shows. This is part of a complete episode.

You’re the Berries

A listener has spent the last 30 years looking for the origin of the playful phrase “you’re the berries.” This affectionate expression first appears in literature in the 1908 book Sorrows of a Showgirl, then made its way into...

wasta

wasta  n.—Gloss: the Arabic word for influence, personal connections; “pull” or “juice.” Note: While not yet fully adopted as an English word, wasta is increasingly familiar to American soldiers serving in the Middle...