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TWTS: Hatching, semitrucks, and cleaners


What do eggs, Old Norse, semitrucks, and cleaners have in common?

Nothing that we know of, except that we talk about all of them in this week's That's What They Say. 

Today's four-question lightning round kicks off with a query from Kevin Skasalski about the verb "to hatch." He asks, "Do eggs hatch or do chicks hatch? I've used the terms interchangeably, but my guess is there is, or previously was a distiinction."

The good news is, it's hard to be wrong here. Chicks hatch from eggs, but eggs also hatch chicks.

"Hatch" is a flexible verb with multiple meanings. It can mean to emerge from an egg, to give forth young from an egg, and to incubate an egg in order to produce a young bird.

To summarize, eggs hatch, chicks hatch, and adult birds hatch chicks.

In other egg-related questions, William Yaroch wanted to know why we say "egg on," when we're talking about encouraging someone to do something, usually something unwise or inappropriate.

The answer doesn't actually have anything to do with the type of eggs that hatch baby birds. To find out more, listen to the audio above. You'll also hear about where the "semi" in "semitruck" comes from and where we get the phrase "take to the cleaners."

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of Weekend Edition at Michigan Radio. She also co-hosts Michigan Radio’s weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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