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Chicken Scratches and Creaky Voice (full episode)
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2009/02/21
7:18am
San Diego, California
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Does your handwriting look like chicken scratches, calligraphy, or maybe something in between? Martha and Grant discuss the state of penmanship, the phenomenon linguists call creaky voice, euphemisms for going to the bathroom, and the New England expression “I hosey that!”

Listen here:

[audio:http://feeds.waywordradio.org/~r/awwwpodcast/~5/rygWAPbFaCA/090223-AWWW-chicken-scratches-and-creaky-voice.mp3

Download the MP3 here (23.5 MB).

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There’s a new book out about the history of penmanship. It’s called Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, by Kitty Burns Florey.

If you want to claim something—say, the front seat of a car or the last piece of cake—what do you say? Dibs? Boney? How about “I hosey that!”? The hosts talk about this New England expression, its possible origins, and its equivalent in other parts of the country.

A caller has a hard time remembering which is correct: “Give the book to my husband and me,” or “Give the book to my husband and I.” Martha offers a sure-fire, quick-and-easy way to know if “husband and I” or “husband me” are right every time.

According to a listener in San Diego, when a DJ plays a great set, he’s said to rinse it.

In honor of the 44th U.S. president, Quiz Guy Greg Pliska offers a word game “Glom-a Obama.” The object: Figure out a series of rhyming two-word phrases by guessing the word to be added to the name “Obama.” For example, if Mr. Obama had been born in one of Japan’s second-largest city, he would be “_____________ Obama.”

“He’s been sick three days hand-running.” Huh? In some parts of the country, “hand running” means “in succession, consecutively.” The hosts muse about the possible origins of this phrase.

One of the Olsen twins does it, some public radio hosts do it, and at least one former U.S. president does it. Grant describes the curious speech trait linguists call “creaky voice.”

A “red letter-day” is a special occasion. Martha explains how this term came to be.

A listener says she and her husband called their unborn child “wohube.” What other noms de fetus are there?

In this week’s installment of Slang This!, a member of the National Puzzlers League tries to separate the real slang terms from the fake ones. Try this one: Which of the following expressions really is a British synonym for the willies, the heebie jeebies or a similar kind of “nervous freakout”? Would that be the belching withers or the screaming abdabs? And which of the following terms is Australian slang for “people from the United States”? Is it septics or songbirds? (The Aussies are all rolling their eyes at this obvious answer.)

If you’re having a conversation with someone, are you speaking with them, speaking to them, talking to them, or talking with them? A caller wonders what differences, if any, exist among all those expressions.

You might have heard Brits say “I’m going to spend a penny” when they have to visit the loo. The hosts discuss the reason for this phrase, and other euphemisms for making a trip to the toilet, such as “I’m going to visit Miss White” and “I’m going to go drop off some friends at the lake.

A caller observes that after moving to Indianapolis, he noticed that many of the locals say the names of commercial enterprises as if they’re plural or possessive, even when they’re not, such as calling Walmart “Walmart’s.” Grant explains the inclination to add the S sound to the names of businesses in casual speech and writing.

2009/02/21
9:12am
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I’m guessing hand running is related to the hands of a clock,
and running the hands means to constantly work at something across that expanse of time.
“We danced non-stop from 5 to 6:45 hand running”

©
2009/02/22
9:54am
gw
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I’ve heard the creaky voice many times, particularly in advertising. I regard it as an affectation, myself, and an extremely annoying one. To me, it’s an attempt to convey casual sophistication, the sort of conceit a college junior might have. Note to advertisers, that’s how it comes off in adversitments, too, as faux sophistication.

2009/02/22
4:35pm
whitekoi
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re: creaky voice
Creaky voice drives me nuts! Intuition tells me it is an indication of youth, vulnerability and desire for approval. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton breaking into creaky voice? I can’t. I used to listen to a radio station where they had a contest to determine which woman had the sexiest voice. The most annoying creaky voice always won. Ick.

2009/02/23
12:31pm
mpinck
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I have to admit to still not quite understanding what creaky voice is. If you have one, can someone give me a pointer to an example of it in the wild?

–Michael

2009/02/23
12:34pm
San Diego, California
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Michael, there are descriptions and samples of creaky voice here and here. I meant to link to them in the original post above, so thanks for requesting them!

2009/02/23
1:49pm
tvieno
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I thought I was the only one who heard the creaky voice. I always called it “The Tired Voice.” Like when someone has been up for a long time (24 hours or so) and their voice gets creaky. One of the radio shows that comes on very early in the morning I listen to has a lot of “experts” that are used for sound bites and it seems like it is mostly women who have that “tired voice”. It makes me want to get a drink of water. Also, like gw above, I hear it in commercials as well.

–snipped from above– “A caller observes that after moving to Indianapolis, he noticed that many of the locals say the names of commercial enterprises as if they’re plural or possessive, even when they’re not, such as calling Walmart “Walmart’s.” Grant explains the inclination to add the S sound to the names of businesses in casual speech and writing.”

I live in the Chicago area and I have noticed the possessive form of named establishments. We have two kinds of grocery stores, Jewel Foods and Dominick’s. People call Jewel Foods, Jewel’s. But what I have also heard is people will say, “I am going to THE Jewel’s.” or “I am going to THE Dominick’s.”

2009/02/23
2:41pm
Richard R
Tustin, CA
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Regarding that “s”, spelled or spoken at the end of a business’ name, here in southern California there are many businesses who spell their name with the S but without an apostrophe. Best examples are supermarket chains: Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons. Yet Lowe’s uses the apostrophe. I can’t see that there is any rule or guideline for this useage, it seems to be just a matter of some do, some don’t.

2009/02/23
8:40pm
ward
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About the Red Letter Day…On the desk Calenders that the Government Printing office makes for sale to government agencies, All the official Holidays are printed in red. A conversation would be go something like this…”Do we have Monday Off? yes, because It’s a Red Letter Day”

Ward

2009/02/23
10:31pm
Highpockets
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I don’t post here a lot but this episode has all kinds of things I want to comment on.

re: dibs, My father told a story of a roommate in college, dad would make muffins or cookies and taking them out of the oven, his roommate would come over and lick his finger and touch a muffin saying, “This ones mine, and this ones mine, and this ones mine…” apparently he had never heard of, I hosey that!.

re: noms de fetus, There is a blog I read and the author is pregnant with her first child, she has temporary named the baby “flippy” http://tinyurl.com/d4vamc ,full description there. You mentioned names not just for the unborn, but kids as well, that’s where my handle comes from. when I was a kid, my dad called me, my brother and sister “lowpockets” we were small and had pockets much lower than his. Now that I’ve grown and have kids of my own, they are the lowpockets and that gives me highpockets.

re: Drop the kids off at the lake, I always heard …at the pool. A friend and I had a good chuckle when he said it to a boss, and boss asked, “Well how long are you going to be gone”?!

and lastly
re: Wal-mart’s, I always get a kick out of saying, “I’m going to the wal-mart’s, you need anything?” My mom always said, “we are getting your back to school clothes at Jacques Penne’, there’s no need to be embarrassed.”

2009/02/24
3:42am
Bubba in Texas
Fort Worth, TX
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If I understand the concept of “creaky voice” correctly, then I’ve got a great example of someone who has it…and it’s someone who discusses some of the same topics talked about on “A Way With Words”: Mignon Fogerty, AKA “Grammar Girl”. I listen to her podcast somewhat regularly, and to be honest, while I enjoy most of the content of her shows, the way her voice creaks at the end of many of her sentences really bothers me. I wonder if she’s even aware it happens.

When one of your callers mentioned adding the possessive to the end of certain businesses, the first thing that came to my mind was “JCPenney/JCPenney’s”. A few minutes later, Grant mentioned that very example. I’m not sure if I should be excited or scared that Grant and I were on the same wave length at that moment.:wink:

Love the show–keep up the great work!!

2009/02/24
4:06am
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Martha and Grant have beautiful voices.

I abbreviate “is” often placing in on the end of common and proper nouns
such as

Jack’s back.
The hour’s late.

‘s that legal?

©
2009/02/24
9:58am
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whitekoi

re: creaky voice
Creaky voice drives me nuts! Intuition tells me it is an indication of youth, vulnerability and desire for approval. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton breaking into creaky voice? I can’t. I used to listen to a radio station where they had a contest to determine which woman had the sexiest voice. The most annoying creaky voice always won. Ick.

Eartha Kit was my favorite Cat Woman

video

©
2009/02/24
10:31am
Bios Theoretikos
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Talking of spending a penny, there was an extension of this that was used particularly in the coy way in which we speak to children, that implied a more solid contribution – a sixpence!
My favourite urination euphemisms are Australian – ‘I have to go wet my boots’ and ‘I have to hang a rat.’

Chris

2009/02/24
8:01pm
Elizabeth
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i wonder if “hand running” has anything to do with “hands down.”

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/win-hands-down.html

i grew up hearing “hand running.” i grew up in charlotte nc, with parents who grew up here and in north wilkesboro nc.

2009/02/24
9:04pm
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thank you

©
2009/02/24
10:17pm
San Diego, CA
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So much great stuff to respond to here! For now, let me just say it’s weird about “creaky voice.” I confess I hadn’t noticed it, but I sure do now. Ann Althouse is a lawyer, not a linguist, but she has an interesting post about it on her blog, apparently having noticed the same thing. She includes a clip from “Scrubs” in which one of the characters seems to have it. Or maybe it’s just the last of a sore throat?:lol:

2009/02/24
10:21pm
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i grew up hearing “hand running.” i grew up in charlotte nc, with parents who grew up here and in north wilkesboro nc.

Elizabeth, my pappy was from next door in the hills of Alexander County, and I wish he were around to ask if he used it as well. I’ll bet he did.

2009/02/25
1:00am
Bubba in Texas
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Upon further investigation, I have discovered that in my earlier post I misspelled Grammar Girl’s last name. Her name is Mignon Fogarty, not Fogerty.

Here is a link to the Grammar Girl website, where you can listen to her podcasts and hear what I mean about her voice:

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/

2009/02/25
12:01pm
Paul
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re: Hosey/freezing a seat

When I was a kid we wanted to save a seat while we left the room for a minute we would say, “No tough rocks”. I think this arose from a conversation that went something like this:

Me: “Hey you are in my seat”
Sister: “You left”
Me: “I just had to go to the bathroom”
Sister: “Tough rocks!”

Thenceforth we would say “I call ‘no tough rocks’ on my chair” before leaving the room.

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