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Episode 1514

Space Cadet

We have books for language-lovers and recommendations for history buffs. • How did the word boondoggle come to denote a wasteful project? The answer involves the Boy Scouts, a baby, a craft project, and a city council meeting. • Instead of reversing...

Interesting Foreign Expressions

The French expression peigner la girafe means to do a useless, tedious, or annoying job, but literally translates as “to comb the giraffe.” That’s one of the many gems in Mark Abley’s new book Watch Your Tongue: What Our...

Episode 1419

Green-Eyed Monster

We often hear that English is going to hell in a handbasket. Actually, though, linguistic handwringing about sinking standards and sloppy speech has been going on for centuries – at least as far back as the 1300’s! And: language also...

Crotch Watch and Flying Dirty

What do flight attendants call that point in takeoff preparations when they walk up and down the aisle to make sure seatbelts are securely fastened? It’s the crotch watch, also known as a groin scan. The expression flying dirty refers to when...

macaroon technique

macaroon technique  n.— «He used PowerPoint to impart what he calls the “macaroon technique,” referring to the sandwich-like French macaron pastry. This can be applied to most any product (including, presumably, a Xerox machine) and goes...

sorry gift

sorry gift  n.— «Because guilt over spending is playing a big role in the sales downturn, he teaches salespeople to suggest a “sorry gift”—of another timepiece—for a wife who might be disappointed that her husband just dropped a sizable...