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Episode 1599

What in Tarnation

Language is always evolving, and that’s also true for American Sign Language. A century ago, the sign for “telephone” was one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear, as if you’re holding an old-fashioned candlestick...

A Vowel Perforation Called the Diaeresis

Sidney in Boston, Massachusetts, is curious about the diaeresis, that pair of dots that occasionally appear over a vowel in words such as naïve and coöperate. In ancient Greek diairesis, meaning “division,” applied to those dots in...

Long Eeeeeeeease Brain Tease

Quiz Guy John Chaneski has crafted this puzzle with eeeeeeeease. In fact, all the answers are combinations of words that include only one vowel sound — a long E. For example, suppose the clue is It’s what some people say the moon is made of...

Two-Word A Puzzle

All the answers to this puzzle from Quiz Guy John Chaneski are two-word phrases, and the only vowel they contain is the letter A. For example, suppose John is lounging in a shaded spot where only one variety of fruit is allowed. Where is he? This is...

Episode 1531

Loaded for Bear

One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature or Rainstorm & Egg or … just about any other two-word combination. A tongue-in-cheek website will generate names like...

Helter-Skelter Reduplicatives

Jerrell in San Antonio, Texas, is curious about the term helter-skelter, meaning “haphazardly.” English is full of such reduplicatives, also called rhyming jingles, flip-flop words, or echo words. They fall into three categories: one...