Dude! We’re used to hearing the word “dude” applied to guys. But increasingly, young women use the word “dude” to address each other. Grant and Martha talk about linguistic research about the meaning and uses of “dude.” Also, the story behind the term “eavesdropping.” Originally, it referred to the act of standing outside someone’s window. Plus: by and large, by the seat of your pants, drawing room, snowhawk, Netflix o’clock, glegged up, quarry, and that’s all she wrote.
This episode first aired February 2, 2014.
Cow and Chicken Riddle
You have 30 cows, and 28 chickens. How many didn’t? (Yep, that’s the riddle: How many didn’t?)
“Flying By the Seat of Your Pants” Origin
Back in the 1930s, airplane pilots didn’t have sophisticated instruments to tell them which way was up. When flying through clouds, they literally relied on changes in the vibrations in their seat to help them stay on course, flying by the seat of their pants. The phrase later expanded to mean “making it up as you go along.”
By And Large
The idiom by and large, an idiom commonly known to mean “in general,” actually combines two sailing terms. To sail by means you’re sailing into the wind. To sail large, means that you have the wind more or less at your back. Therefore, by and large encompasses the whole range of possibilities.
After a long day of work, you settle in to binge-watch House of Cards, only to discover that everyone else in your time zone wants to watch the same thing, bogging down the Netflix stream. That’s Netflix o’clock.
Looking glegged up, with staring into space with the mouth agape, comes from glegged, which shows up in some old dialect dictionaries meaning “to look askance.”
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle about subtracting letters from words.
Etymology of Eavesdropping
The term eavesdropping arose from the practice of secretly listening to conversations while standing in the eavesdrip, the gap between houses designed to keep rain dripping off one roof and onto the next.
Our American Cousin, the farce being performed when President Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre, had some choice lines of bumpkin talk. One of them, “You sockdologizing old man-trap!,” was the play’s biggest laugh line, after which John Wilkes Booth fired the fatal shot.
Masked Men Riddle
How about this riddle? A man leaves home. He goes a little ways and turns a corner. He goes a while and turns another corner. Soon, he turns one more corner. As he’s returning home, he sees two masked men. Who are they?
Drawing room, known for people taking turns about it, is short for withdrawing room, as in, withdrawing from the dining room while it’s being prepped or cleaned.
Origin of Cute
Cute, which comes from acute, once meant “shrewd and perceptive”–“sharp,” in other words–rather than “adorable.”
Apache Thunder Proverb
An Apache proverb goes It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.
Foreign Sport Idioms
How do sports idioms translate to other languages in cultures where the sport isn’t popular?
Photo by Caitlin Regan. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Bring Da Ruckus||El Michels Affair||Enter the 37th Chamber||Fat Beats|
|Dusty Blue||Charles Bradley||Victim Of Love||Dunham Records|
|Spear For Moondog, Part 2||Jimmy McGriff||Electric Funk||Blue Note|
|Can’t It All Be So Simple||El Michels Affair||Enter the 37th Chamber||Fat Beats|
|The Message||Cymande||Cymande||Janus Records|
|Deeper and Deeper||Jackie Mittoo||Studio One Musik City||Soul Jazz Records|
|You Put The Flame On It||Charles Bradley||Victim Of Love||Dunham Records|
|In 3’s||Beastie Boys||Check Your Head||Capitol Records|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|
Grant Barrett said “The Quarry,” a famous painting of a buck carcass by Gustave Courbet, is a hint to another definition of quarry: the guts of an animal given to dogs after a hunt.
I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for years to revive the old Scottish hunting term gralloch, defined as “to disembowel a stag”. It’s a perfect metaphor for the process of painstakingly debugging a failing program to see exactly where and how it’s going wrong.
A few words on this show are still fairly used in New Zealand.
Skedaddle is often used to herd children out of the way. e.g. “You lot, skedaddle out of the kitchen”. This fits nicely with the image of an unorganised retreat. My school teacher wife says that she and others use it on their class to get them moving from A to B.
It is also sometimes used as an informal way to excuse yourself. If I was at a bar with a friend, he may look at his watch, down the rest of his drink and sigh.. “Well, I better skedaddle”.
The other word is the alternate use of “cute”. No one here (in New Zealand) would bat an eyelid at hearing cute being used like that. Although we tend to phrase it as “being cute”, and is used when someone gets away with something. It is used a lot in sports commentary. e.g. someone lands a ‘hail mary’ shot in basketball from halfway as the buzzer is going off. The commentator might say ” he was being cute there”, getting away with something he probably shouldn’t have.
If I try and help my father to use his phone and get frustrated and snap at him, he might reply “Don’t try and get cute with me , kiddo”.
Two (very late) comments on this show:
(1) More an anecdote than anything, but if you get up into a plane and grab the controls, you can get a real sense of what the phrase “by the seat of your pants” means. When controlling a plane, you have three axes of rotation (pitch (the nose goes up or down), roll (the wing tips go up or down), and yaw (the nose goes left or right)), each of which is controlled by a different mechanism (elevators and ailerons on the stick or yoke, and the rudder by way of pedals). When turning, all three controls are used, and must be coordinated properly. If a turn is uncoordinated, then the forces acting on the plane in the turn will tend to push the pilot to the right or left, rather than right down into the seat. Hence you can easily tell that a turn is uncoordinated by the feeling in the seat of your pants.
(2) In the same conversation, you mention the phrase “to wing it” as another aeronautical term. My understanding is that the term is actually theatrical. The image that I have always had is of an actor who can’t remember his lines, and the person with the script hanging out in the wings of the theater, prompting the actor. I am curious about what the correct etymology is (and, as I am no longer a student, my free access to the OED is gone).
HereÂ is some backing for you on the origin of “wing it”. Having spent more than 45 years in theater, I have never before heard of this derivation. I’ve certainly heard the term around the theater, but only in the more generic sense of fake it, or improvise. Where I’ve performed we’ve had someone on book during rehearsals, but never a prompter in performance. Very rarely, I’ve heard a fellow actor in the wings help out someone alone onstage who was completely lost; more often someone else onstage will improvise something in hopes of getting things moving again.Â
The practice of reading the script offstage before a scene is not unusual, but I’ve never heard it referred to as winging it.
No OED access either.Â Apologies for blithering.
A scan of googlebooks leads to an older possible origin for winging.Â In laying out the ballast for a sailing ship, ‘winging’ the ballast meant spreading it out to counterbalance the width of the storage in the hold.Â Apparently too much winging made the ship hard to control…
When I was in engineering school, more than once, professors told the class about an understaffed team designing an aircraft.Â They were short on time before the deadline when they realized that the wings needed to be moved aft for better balance.
That’s a BIG project.Â There are a lot of stresses trying to tear the body of a plane and the wings apart, and there weren’t any computers in that era.Â Having a brain storm, the designer switched from straight wings to swept ones, a task that didn’t really require new design calculations.Â He drew new blueprints over the weekend, and not only did the plane now meet design criteria, but it had sex appeal.Â Prior to this, swept wings appeared on many designs for supersonic flight, but they hadn’t been used on subsonic designs.
They said the engineer won the contract by really winging it.
I don’t know how much credence to give the story.Â Engineers are fond of pulling each others’ kegs.
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