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The Life of Riley History and Origin

Marie-Claire from Montreal, Canada, wonders why we say that someone living in carefree luxury is living the life of Riley. No one’s sure this expression’s origin, although it may be associated with a 19th-century vaudeville song about an...

Expressions from the Bible

Land of milk and honey, Judgment Day, and root of all evil are well-known phrases that first appeared in English translations of the Bible. There are several less obvious ones, though, including bottomless pit, meaning an abyss, which first appears...

Etymology of “Lynch”

A trip to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit The Legacy Museum chronicling the African-American experience, the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University, and the profoundly moving National Memorial for Peace and Justice prompts Martha to delve into the...

The True Alchemists

In his collection of essays, A Temple of Texts, writer William Gass observed: “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” This is part of a complete episode.

Alte Kacker, Old Cocker

A Tallahassee, Florida, listener heard an interview in which actor William H. Macy referred to old cockers, apparetly meaning “old fellows.” Although one meaning of cocker is “pal,” Macy was probably alluding to the Yiddish...