Home » Newsletter » Yankee Dimes in a Culch Pile

Yankee Dimes in a Culch Pile

Howdy! In this week’s episode of “A Way with Words,” we have a whole culch pile of conversation about Yankee dimes, hanging crepe, educational rubrics, and whether the language you speak influences how you think. Here ’tis:


We also discussed childhood misunderstandings, such as assuming that “cat burglars” steal cats. Many of you are still chiming in via email. Sheila Virtue of Oregon, Wis., writes: “I always thought ‘staph’ infections were the result of going to the hospital and being exposed to the staff who were around sick people.”

Preschool teacher Michelle Grossman of Noblesville, Ind., certainly knows this homophone phenomenon. “I asked the class if they knew what a ‘fire drill’ was. One little girl gave a vivid description of a flaming power tool.”

As a five-year-old, Donna Post from Hayward, Wis., was perplexed by the old Sealy Posturepedic ad. She misunderstood it as: “Sleeping on the ceiling is like sleeping on a clown.”

Keep ’em coming! We’ll share more in later episodes.

Who knew there were at least 2,964 English terms for “tipsy”? Paul Dickson compiled that many in his new book, “Drunk: The Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary.” Grant chats with him in an extra, online-only podcast. Cheers!


On this week’s must-read list, an essay by Michael Cunningham (“The Hours,” “By Nightfall”). He offers excellent writing advice, including the importance of a strong first line:

“As writers we must, from our very opening sentence, speak with authority to our readers. It’s a little like waltzing with a new partner for the first time. Anyone who is able to waltz, or fox-trot, or tango, or perform any sort of dance that requires physical contact with a responsive partner, knows that there is a first moment, on the dance floor, when you assess, automatically, whether the new partner in question can dance at all — and if he or she can in fact dance, how well.”

Read the rest:


Imagine a world without words. Here’s an especially good episode of Radiolab featuring variations on that theme, including the story of a man who learns his first words at the age of 27.


If you come across great stories about language that you think fellow word lovers should know about, drop us a line or share it with us on our Facebook page:


Ciao for now,

Martha and Grant

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Further reading

Clever Clogs (episode #1539)

Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won’t find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection...

Bug in Your Ear (episode #1537)

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...