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Today I Learned (episode #1578)

Youngsters want to know: What’s the difference between barely and nearly, and what’s so clean about a whistle, anyway? Plus, adults recount some misunderstandings from when they were knee-high to a grasshopper. Kids do come up with some...

Is a Whistle Really all That Clean?

Fourteen-year-old Harry from Charlotte, Vermont, asks why we say something is clean as a whistle. Clean as a whistle refers not to a physical whistle, but to the purity of the sibilant sound. This is part of a complete episode.

Counting-Out Rymes for Toes

Susan from Virginia Beach, Virginia, remembers a toe-counting game from her childhood that goes “This toe tight / this penny white / this toe tizzle / this penny wizzle.” She doesn’t recall the rest and has no idea where it came...

Steam that Blows the Whistle Never Turns the Wheel

A listener in Burlington, Vermont, remembers being punished as a youngster for talking during class. His teacher forced him to write out this proverb dozens of times: “For those who talk, and talk, and talk, this proverb may appeal. The steam...

Whistle Pig Critter

Whistle pig, woodchuck, and groundhog are all terms for a type of large squirrel, or marmot, found in the United States. The name whistle pig, common in Appalachia, is a jocular reference to the sound they make. This is part of a complete episode.

Pipe Down

Pipe down, meaning “shush,” comes from the days when a ship’s bosun (or bo’s’n or bos’n, also known as a boatswain), would actually blow a whistle to tell the rest of the crew that the wind had shifted or a...

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