Should youngsters learn cursive handwriting in school? Plus, someone can be ruthless, but can that same person be ruthful? Which word refers to something larger, humongous or gargantuan? Also, funny newspaper corrections, a crossword quiz, Texas idioms, and a version of Three Blind Mice with an upgraded vocabulary.

This episode first aired June 16, 2012.

Download the MP3 here.

 Newspaper Mistakes
Even the best newspaper reporters make mistakes. Here’s an unfortunately funny correction about the My Little Pony character a young woman thinks about to cheer herself up. Another correction from the Centralia Morning Sentinel notes that a member of a Christian rock band was on, um, drums, not drugs.

 Sidewalk Dodge
What do you call that moment when you try to walk past someone on the sidewalk, but you both move in the same direction? Perhaps slidewalking, doing the sidewalk boogie, or stranger dancing? Martha votes for polkadodge.

 Hundred-Mile Tape
In the military, a certain kind of duct tape is known as hundred-mile-per-hour tape because it can withstand 100-mph speeds.

 Ruthful
Someone can be ruthless, but can that person be ruthful? Ruthful is indeed a word that derives from an old definition of ruth meaning “the quality of being compassionate.” But unpaired negatives, like ruthless, unkempt, uncouth, or disgruntled, are common words that lack positive correlatives in common speech.

 Newspaper Miscorrection
A middle-school librarian caught the Arkansas Democrat Gazette messing up the title of the second book in the Hunger Games series. The newspaper then issued an abject apology.

 Crossword Pun Clues
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has lifted some tricky puns from New York Times crossword puzzles for this word game. What’s “a green org,” in three letters? How about a three-letter answer for “peas keeper”?

 Sesquipedalian Songs
It seems there’s a sesquipedalian version to the classic “Three Blind Mice” folk rhyme about a trio of rodents with impaired vision. Need a visual yourself? Try this one.

 Should Schools Teach Cursive Writing?
Should educators continue to teach cursive writing in school? For the sake of learning to read old documents and honing their hand-eye skills, many say “yes.” Most current teaching standards, however, require only keyboard training, not longhand.

 Let the Rain Settle It
Owe somebody money? How about you charge it to the dust and let the rain settle it? This is a useful idiom for friendly transactions where no payment is necessary.

 A Stepper Like You
“It ain’t no hill for a stepper like you,” is a popular idiom in the South meaning someone can finish the task at hand.

 Battle Buddies
In the Army, a battle buddy is someone assigned to be your constant companion, and it’s often shortened to just “battle.” Other words, like Upstate and cell, as in a mobile phone, have dropped the nouns they modified.

 Humongous vs. Gargantuan
Which word is larger, humongous or gargantuan? Which refers to something larger? Grant and Martha agree with usage expert Bryan Garner that the word gargantuan is the larger of the two.

 A Dull Wife
A correction in London’s Daily Mail notes that a Mr. Smith testified in court that he had “a dull life,” not “a dull wife.” Oops.

 Wash-Belly
In Jamaica, the youngest child is commonly known as the wash-belly. In addition to being the youngest, the term can also connote that the wash-belly is lazy and spoiled. Frederic Cassidy traces this and other terms in his Dictionary of Jamaican English and Jamaica Talk.

 A Correction Correcting A Correction
Craig Silverman’s book Regret the Error contains a maze of a correction that simply corrects an incorrect correction. You can also follow more recent collections of corrections on his blog at the Poynter Institute.

Photo by RBerteig. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Dictionary of Jamaican English by Frederic Cassidy
Jamaica Talk by Frederic Cassidy
Regret the Error by Craig Silverman

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Bang Bang Monophonics In Your Brain Ubiquity Records
Reach Out, I’ll Be There Lee Moses Time And Place Castle Music
Golden Dunes The Budos Band The Budos Band III Daptone Records
Pictures McCoy Tyner The Greeting Fantasy Records
Crimson Skies The Budos Band The Budos Band III Daptone Records
River Serpentine The Budos Band The Budos Band III Daptone Records
Naima McCoy Tyner The Greeting Fantasy Records
Budos Dirge The Budos Band The Budos Band III Daptone Records
Leslie Love I Mark 4 Psych Beat, Volume 1 Poliedizioni Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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31 Responses

  1. Ron Draney says:

    On unpaired negatives: I once participated in a discussion where it was decided that feck was that attribute possessed in abundance by the Coyote but utterly absent in the Roadrunner.

  2. Heimhenge says:

    Regarding Martha’s polkadodge, I once read an explanation of why that happens so rarely … at least the double or triple corrections she’s referring to. Some behavioral scientist actually studied that phenomenon, watching eye motion and changes in gait. He determined that, when approaching, corrections or directional commitments are made (on average) some 10-20 feet ahead of time. Claimed it was a “projection of personal space.” Interesting.

    That unpaired negative thing is also interesting. Reminded me of an old Nick Danger, 3rd Eye episode (audio) by Firesign Theater, ca. 1970. Nick was described by the narrator as “pursuing ruthlessly.” Cut to Nick, who is heard repeating “Where’s Ruth? Where’s Ruth?”

    If you can have feck, I guess you can also have ruth. Coyote apparently has both.

  3. telemath says:

    Heimhenge said:

    That unpaired negative thing is also interesting. Reminded me of an old Nick Danger, 3rd Eye episode (audio) by Firesign Theater, ca. 1970. Nick was described by the narrator as “pursuing ruthlessly.” Cut to Nick, who is heard repeating “Where’s Ruth? Where’s Ruth?”

    Reminds me of a poem from an old book I had as a child:

     

    Ruth rode on my motorbike,
    Directly back of me.
    I hit a bump at 55-
    and rode on ruthlessly.

  4. telemath says:

    Knowing me, I’ve probably posting this before.  Jack Winter wrote a wonderful bit using the positive form of words lacking negatives:

     

    http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/humor/how-i-met-my-wife.html

  5. Paula S says:

    When it happens to me (neither person veering away and you end up nearly colliding), I smile mirthlessly then mutter under my breath, “Dang Squirrel” because it reminds me of how squirrels zig and zag and stop right in the middle of the road before turning back at the last second before you swerve to miss them (or not). I basically keep walking now and make the other person move (and apologize)–why shouldn’t I have the right of way? I know where I’m going.

  6. Paul T says:

    Regarding polkadodge, a teacher back in the 60s called it The Alphonse-Gaston Routine, referring to two overly-polite French cartoon characters, who went through a routine of “After you,” “No, after you,” “No, after you”…..

  7. Ron Draney says:

    So much to comment on in this episode!

    On the sidestepping thing – I’m inclined to call it “teasing Yang”. I could always count on my mother’s Siamese cat to fall for it whenever I met him in the hallway. Those who say that animals have no facial expressions never saw a cat this exasperated.

    On cursive writing – I disagree with Grant about it being easy to figure out without training. Who could look at a proper lowercase “r” or “s” and know instinctively what letter it’s supposed to be? And the capitals? Sounds like someone’s forgotten the “why should a Q look like the number 2?” problem. (Capital S and G are likewise puzzling to the uninitiated.)

    I hadn’t heard the one about the trio of rodents with impaired vision, but I’ve long known this rendition of the story of Mary and her little lamb. It appeared in a jokebook of my grandmother’s, dated 1939, so it’s got some legs.

  8. Kaa says:

    From Mister Roger’s Neighborhood circa when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth:

    Propel, propel, propel your craft
    Gently down liquid solution
    Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically
    Existence is but an illusion.

  9. separator says:

    Would it be OK to say, if everything in my life is doing fine, that I am “gruntled“?

  10. lesmoore says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    Should youngsters learn cursive handwriting in school? Plus, someone can be ruthless, but can that same person be ruthful? Which word refers to something larger, humongous or gargantuan? Also, funny newspaper corrections, a crossword quiz, Texas idioms, and a version of Three Blind Mice with an upgraded vocabulary.

     

    This episode first aired June 16, 2012.

    [mejsaudio src="http://feeds.waywordradio.org/~r/awwwpodcast/~5/XdzEOhIAR48/120618-AWWW-Crazy-Crossword-Clues.mp3"]
    Download the MP3 here

    To be automatically notified when audio is available, subscribe to the podcast using iTunes or another podcatching program.

    Even the best newspaper reporters make mistakes. Here’s an unfortunately funny correction about the My Little Pony character a young woman thinks about to cheer herself up. Another correction from the Centralia Morning Sentinel notes that a member of a Christian rock band was on, um, drums, not drugs.

    What do you call that moment when you try to walk past someone on the sidewalk, but you both move in the same direction? Perhaps slidewalking, doing the sidewalk boogie, or stranger dancing? Martha votes for polkadodge.

    In the military, a certain kind of duct tape is known as hundred-mile-per-hour tape because it can withstand 100-mph speeds.

    Someone can be ruthless, but can that person be ruthful? Ruthful is indeed a word that derives from an old definition of ruth meaning “the quality of being compassionate.” But unpaired negatives, like ruthless, unkempt, uncouth, or disgruntled, are common words that lack positive correlatives in common speech.

    A middle-school librarian caught the Arkansas Democrat Gazette messing up the title of the second book in the Hunger Games series. The newspaper then issued an abject apology.

    Quiz Guy John Chaneski has lifted some tricky puns from New York Times crossword puzzles for this word game. What’s “a green org,” in three letters? How about a three-letter answer for “peas keeper”?

    It seems there’s a sesquipedalian version to the classic “Three Blind Mice” about a trio of rodents with impaired vision. Need a visual yourself? Try this one.

    Should educators continue to teach cursive writing in school? For the sake of learning to read old documents and honing their hand-eye skills, many say “yes.” Most current teaching standards, however, require only keyboard training, not longhand.

    Owe somebody money? How about you charge it to the dust and let the rain settle it? This is a useful idiom for friendly transactions where no payment is necessary.

    It ain’t no hill for a stepper like you,” is a popular idiom in the South meaning someone can finish the task at hand.

    In the Army, a battle buddy is someone assigned to be your constant companion, and it’s often shortened to just “battle.” Other words, like Upstate and cell, as in a mobile phone, have dropped the nouns they modified.

    Which word is larger, humongous or gargantuan? Which refers to something larger? Grant and Martha agree with usage expert Bryan Garner that the word gargantuan is the larger of the two.

    A correction in London’s Daily Mail notes that a Mr. Smith testified in court that he had “a dull life,” not “a dull wife.” Oops.

    In Jamaica, the youngest child is commonly known as the wash-belly. In addition to being the youngest, the term can also connote that the wash-belly is lazy and spoiled. Frederic Cassidy traces this and other terms in his Dictionary of Jamaican English and Jamaica Talk.

    Craig Silverman’s book Regret the Error contains a maze of a correction that simply corrects an incorrect correction. You can also follow more recent collections of corrections on his blog at the Poynter Institute.

  11. lesmoore says:

    Being Australian (we drive on the left, and walk on the left while in the street or in corridors), I frequently become involved in the stepping from side to side when I encounter someone walking in the other direction while in the USA. Some time ago I decided to lighten the situation by saying “Just one more dance, then I really must go”. It gets great responses!

  12. emalouwho says:

    I’m 31 and learned what they called italic cursive in school. I have no problem reading cursive even though italic cursive isn’t cursive. But both my mom and grandmother wrote in cursive and so I grew up reading that. I think I always felt shorted by not being taught it in school.

  13. Chauncey says:

    lesmoore said:

    Being Australian (we drive on the left, and walk on the left while in the street or in corridors), I frequently become involved in the stepping from side to side when I encounter someone walking in the other direction while in the USA. Some time ago I decided to lighten the situation by saying “Just one more dance, then I really must go”. It gets great responses!

    Chauncey replies:

    I think this is part of the cause of the confusion.  Do you walk as you learned the “rules of the road”?  I like lesmoore’s saying, I use “Shall we dance?”

  14. Chauncey says:

    Should youngsters learn cursive handwriting in school?

    Reminds me of an old western where the old cowboy admits to being able to read reading but couldn’t read writing.

  15. jaxelrod says:

    Apparently Kaa beat me to it! When I heard Chris’s take on Three Blind Mice during your most recent podcast today, Mister Rogers immediately came to mind. He first broadcast this song in 1968. I have quoted it to my daughter several times through the years and we always share a laugh. Maybe Chris or his brother got the idea at some point from Mister Rogers?

    PROPEL PROPEL PROPEL YOUR CRAFT

    Propel propel propel your craft
    Gently down liquid solution
    Ecstatically ecstatically ecstatically ecstatically
    Existence is but an illusion

  16. Chauncey says:

    telemath said:

    Knowing me, I’ve probably posting this before.  Jack Winter wrote a wonderful bit using the positive form of words lacking negatives:

     

    http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/humor/how-i-met-my-wife.html

     

    Chauncey replies:

    That is probably the most difficult bit I’ve ever read! Jack Winter is to be congratulated because I am now completly founded.

  17. paulv says:

    On the subject of ordered sizes. Years ago a friend referred me to olive sizes. Which are (in order):

    Large

    Extra large

    Mammoth

    Giant

    Jumbo

    Colossal

    Super Colossal

     

    But no Gargantuan or Humongous… Oh well.

  18. Christopher Murray says:

    The term battle buddy might be as recent as you claim, but I would be surprised if the practice was as new. I recently listened to a BBC Witness documentary in which a British paratrooper in the Falklands/Malvinas conflict in 1982 describes how the fundamental soldier unit is two people. He just called it a buddy-buddy system. He described how they looked after each other, even drying each other’s feet as they laid in their BASHA (a makeshift accommodation comprising a groundsheet and a topsheet), too cold to reach their own.

  19. bekspeck says:

    As a former history major, I have to vote in favor of continuing to teach cursive handwriting in schools.  I fear that losing this skill will make it that much harder to connect to our past.  What are our future scholars going to do if they cannot read primary source documents?

    I also have to back Martha’s point that cursive aids in comprehension.  I work as a special educator, and one of the literacy programs we use teaches cursive skills as an aid to fluency and comprehension.  But, as Grant pointed out, due to the Common Core, and demands of standardized testing, this is a skill that there just isn’t time for in the confines of the school day.  Our second-grade students have only a passing awareness of cursive.  I recently gave an academic evaluation to a student, and asked him to point to the stimulus item in the test booklet that showed “writing.”  He was unable to recognize the cursive as “writing.”  Another student pointed correctly, but then told me in all honesty, “but I don’t speak cursive.”

  20. CA Edington says:

    Kaa said:

    From Mister Roger’s Neighborhood circa when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth:

    Propel, propel, propel your craft
    Gently down liquid solution
    Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically
    Existence is but an illusion.

    I guess I predate the dinosaur era, but the 2nd line in the version I learned was:

    Propel, propel, propel your craft
    Placidly down the liquid solution.
    Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
    Existence is but an illusion.
  21. CA Edington says:
    I’ve just listened to the podcast where a caller sang a more elite version of “Three Blind Mice.”  The rendition I know, from at least 40 years ago, was what we knew as the Harvard version, as follows:
    A trio of rodents with defective eyesight,
    A trio of rodents with defective eyesight,
    Observe how they perambulate,
    Observe how they perambulate.
    They all scurried up to the agrarian’s spouse;
    She severed their appendages with a culinary instrument.
    Did you ever observe such a catastrophe in your existence
    As a trio of rodents with defective eyesight?
    A trio of rodents with defective eyesight.
  22. RobertB says:

    More elite than Harvard? Would you explain?

  23. Glenn says:

    When I was in my youth, a friend taught me a hifalutin Show Me the Way to Go Home:

    Indicate the way to my abode
    I’m fatigued and I wish to retire
    I had a tiny beverage sixty minutes ago
    And it went straight to my cerebellum
    Wherever in this world I may perambulate
    Over land, or sea or atmospheric vapor
    You can always hear me chanting this refrain
    Indicate the way to my abode

  24. hippogriff says:

    Sidewalk shuffle:  If they appear to have a sense of humor, I will risk “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”

     

    Couth had a bit of currency after Garson Kanin used it in Born Yesterday – “Your problem is, you’ve got no couth.”

  25. Ron Draney says:

    (I just discovered that I have an Inbox here, and there’s been a message sitting in it for over a month!)

    Any road, I was informed that the link in my message of June 18th, 2012 no longer works. The desired target can be found here instead.

  26. Ron Draney says:

    Apologies for resurrecting an old thread, but upon re-hearing the “Crazy Crossword Clues” segment repeated this week, I came up with a doozie:

    Simpsons Would-be Bartender (11 letters)

    Anyone care to take a crack at it? (Note that “would-be” is significant, and “Moe Syzlak” doesn’t have eleven letters.)

  27. Heimhenge says:

    Probably wrong, but sure, I’ll take a crack (three actually): Syzlakophile? Wannabeamoe? Alchomoelic?

    That’s the required 11 letters, but the “would-be” part has me stumped.

    EDIT: Just read your previous post, and that happened to me too. No idea how long my message was sitting there before I noticed it. Would be good if maybe, when the count is anything other than zero, the text “Inbox: 0” changes colors, like to “Inbox: 1” or whatever color Grant likes.

  28. Ron Draney says:

    Heimhenge said

    Probably wrong, but sure, I’ll take a crack (three actually): Syzlakophile? Wannabeamoe? Alchomoelic?

    That’s the required 11 letters, but the “would-be” part has me stumped.

    I’ll put it in spoiler tags:
    [spoiler]Sideshow Bob. Break up the last word of the clue as “Bart-ender” and you’ll see how it works.[/spoiler]

  29. Dick says:

    This doesn’t completely fit but I keep thinking of quasi-moe-to

  30. Heimhenge says:

    Ron Draney said: I’ll put it in spoiler tags

    Of course … [spoiler hidden] tried to kill Bart in at least one episode I recall. Subtle clue, but not malicious.  :)

    EDIT: Wait … I’m pretty sure CrustyClown (also 11 letters) tried to kill Bart in another episode. But I am not a Simpsons expert.

  31. Aldamans says:

    I was taught cursive writing in third grade, and wrote exclusively in it until about 2007 when I realized that hardly anyone could read it, including my teachers. I can still read and write it, however. Now I write mostly in print, and my handwriting is rather neat (it has to be, since I also write IPA on a daily basis). I use the two-story a and quite a few ligatures.

    Male, 16. I was born and currently reside in Nogales, Sonora, but I lived from 2003 to 2008 in Tucson.

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