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Everything is Tickety-Boo (full episode)
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2010/05/15
8:27am
San Diego, California
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News reports that the makers of Scrabble were changing the rules to allow proper names left some purists fuming. The rumors were false, but they got Grant thinking about idiosyncratic adaptations of the game’s rules. Also this week, the origins of the terms picket lines and hooch, why actors “go up on their lines,” terms for “diarrhea of the mouth,” and what we mean when we say there’s an “800-pound gorilla in the room.”

This episode first aired May 15, 2010.

Download the MP3.

 Family Scrabble Rules
Some families have their own idiosyncratic rules for Scrabble. Grant talks about the rules in his house.

 800 Pound Gorilla
What do we mean when we say there’s an “800-pound gorilla in the room”?

 Hooch
An Indianapolis listener says her family often refers to strong liquor as hooch, and wonders where that term comes from. The hosts trace the term’s path from an Indian village in Alaska.

 Chickpea and Garbanzo Poll
Grant follows up on his chickpea vs. garbanzo poll, and shares an email on the subject from the U.S. Dry Bean Council.

 Initiarithmetic Game
Quiz Guy Greg Pliska reprises his game called Initiarithmetic. The object is to guess a set of items associated with certain numbers, as in “There are 12 m__________ in the y___________.” Here’s another: “76 t___________ in the b__________ p____________.” If you missed the first Initiarithmetic game, it’s here.

 Slang Term “Legit”
An SAT prep teacher in Santa Cruz, California, hears lots of teen slang in his work, and is struck by a new use of the term legit.

 Diarrhea of the Mouth
What’s a synonym for “diarrhea of the mouth”? A caller swears she heard the word on an earlier episode, but can’t recall it. The hosts try to help. Tumidity? Multiloquence? Logorrhea?

 Tickety-Boo
Several decades ago, the expression tickety-boo was commonly used to mean “all in order,” “correct,” or “just dandy.” Although it’s rarely heard, a caller who once lived in Florida says her boss there often used it. Does it derive from Hindi? If you just can’t get enough of this expression, check out Danny Kaye singing “Everything is Tickety-boo.”

 Three Sisters Garden
Grant quizzes Martha about some odd terms: three sisters garden, weak-hand draw, and strimmer.

 Go Up On Lines
In the theater, actors who forget their lines are said to “go up” or to “go up on their lines.” But why go up?

 Listener Riddle and Puzzle
A listener from Bethel, Maine, calls with a riddle she heard at summer camp: The maker doesn’t want it, the buyer doesn’t use it, and the user never sees it. What is it? She also stumps the hosts with a puzzle: What adjective requires five letters to form the superlative?

 Picket Lines
A Fort Worth listener wonders about a claim she saw in a 1930s magazine. The article said that traditionally, a picket line was an area between the front lines of two opposing armies where soldiers might safely venture out to pick berries without fear of being attacked. Might that be connected to the modern sense of picket line meaning a group of striking workers or protesters?

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by Randal Sheppard. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
T.L.C. Average White Band Person To Person Atlantic
Don’t Hate, Congratulate Robert Walter Super Heavy Organ Magna Carta Records
Gibbous Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Honest Jon’s Records
High Heeled Sneakers Grant Green Iron City Savoy Jazz
Sounds Form The Village Message From The Tribe Message From The Tribe Universal Sound
Rabbit Hop Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Honest Jon’s Records
Azeta The Lafayette Afro Rock Band Soul Makossa Hi&fly Records
Hihache The Lafayette Afro Rock Band Soul Makossa Hi&fly Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Fred Astaire Steppin Out: Fred Astaire Sings Verve
2010/05/16
2:51am
vela
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The diarrhea of the mouth word. When the caller talked about a “scientific” word that starts with the letter “t”, the first word that I thought of was, “tangential”.

2010/05/16
10:50am
Jackie
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English is my husband’s second language. In the 18 years we’ve been together, I’ve only managed to beat him at Scrabble a few times. I play words, whereas he plays strategy. If I can make a great word, I don’t really care about the points. He, on the other hand, is always looking for those spots where a tile or two can be added and numerous little words made.

2010/05/17
1:35pm
laager
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This is a guess on the ‘t’ word logorrhea. Mine tends towards racket ?

Tintinnabulation.

2010/05/17
10:44pm
kkrishmar1
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How about tittle-tattle?

2010/05/18
11:51am
telemath
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My wife occasionally mixes a metaphor. Recently, she mentioned how everyone’s ignoring the “pink elephant in the room.” I didn’t correct her because I love the imagery and implications – not only are they all ignoring the problem, but they may also be inebriated.

2010/05/18
11:33pm
Ron Draney
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One of the items in Greg Pliska’s quiz this week reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to ask about.

In addition to the articles a, an and the, I was told in ninth grade (circa 1972) that the word some can function as an article for noncount nouns when it’s unstressed, and that in fact it’s not strictly speaking the same word as the adjective some. (An analogy used to demonstrate how what looks like one word can actually be two was this, which can be either a demonstrative pronoun or a pronominal adjective; “this is a book” vs. “this book is waterlogged”) Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean.

Some sand is made from substances other than silica. In this case, some is an adjective.

I asked the foreman to bring me some sand. In this case, some functions as a noncount article.

Is there a useful grammatical litmus test that distinguishes an article from an identically-spelled adjective? Say a substitution that works for one but not the other?

2010/05/19
10:32am
Ron Draney
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Could the T word for “diarrhea of the mouth” be “tergiversation”?

2010/05/20
1:30pm
tcmeyer
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I believe that “diarrhea of the mouth” is a shortened version of the original “diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain.”

The shortened version implies that one is simply too talkative, while the original implies a disconnect between one’s ability to reason and their verbosity. Another case of of a metaphor gone bad.

Mixed metaphors are great fun, but I especially enjoy how people can create their own words. A friend once described a problem he had with drifting snow; “I’ve got some weird wind turbulations around my garage.”

2010/05/20
6:08pm
Debby with a why
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telemath said:

My wife occasionally mixes a metaphor. Recently, she mentioned how everyone’s ignoring the “pink elephant in the room.” I didn’t correct her because I love the imagery and implications – not only are they all ignoring the problem, but they may also be inebriated.


A long time ago, I knew a very dynamic union organizer, a powerful motivational speaker, who was pretty fast and loose with metaphors. Once he said that we should “get down to brass tactics,” and another time he said some tactic made no sense because it was “putting the cart before the horse.” He was a lovely guy and a lot of fun to listen to.

2011/05/14
10:15am
CheddarMelt
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Hmmm…Greg Pliska’s puzzle sounds more than just familiar. In fact, having never seen The Music Man, I knew the 76 T in the BP right away, since it was one of the original entries in Will Shortz’s original letter equation puzzle (Games Magazine, 1981).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditloid

Congratulations, Will Shortz, for crafting a puzzle that became an instant piece of xero-lore, that is still interesting and relevant thirty years later.

2011/05/17
5:33pm
Cassiopeia
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I’m wondering if there was another answer to the caller asking about the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. When asked about the context, “Rose” said she thought it was “someone didn’t notice the 800 lb. gorilla in the room”. The answer that Martha discussed related to the old joke about “where does an 800 lb. gorilla sit?”. And there was further discussion about the “elephant in the room” as another figure of speech.

I would like to offer another idea about the 800 lb. gorilla, especially given the context which Rose mentioned. There is a fairly well-known psychological experiment which has been recently replicated. In the experiment, subjects are asked to watch a video of six people passing basketballs among themselves, three in black shirts and three in white shirts. The subjects are directed to disregard the black-shirted players and only count the passes among the white-shirts. At the end of the video, they are asked for their counts. They are then asked if they saw the gorilla. A surprising number of subjects failed to notice that a large gorilla walked across the playing floor, stopped and faced the camera, beat his chest, then walked off. A recent segment of The Motley Fool featured a discussion about the book, The Invisible Gorilla, which takes its name from that experiment, and explores how our minds work and how “faulty intuitions get us into trouble.” If you’re interested, there is a sample of the video here.

Sorry about this lengthy explanation, but it is an interesting concept, and I think it is possible that Rose, the caller, heard the expression “800 lb. gorilla in the room” and it was referring not to the old joke but to the old experiment on perception.

2011/05/17
11:12pm
rfox7743
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tcmeyer said:

I believe that “diarrhea of the mouth” is a shortened version of the original “diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain.”

The shortened version implies that one is simply too talkative, while the original implies a disconnect between one’s ability to reason and their verbosity. Another case of of a metaphor gone bad.

Mixed metaphors are great fun, but I especially enjoy how people can create their own words. A friend once described a problem he had with drifting snow; “I’ve got some weird wind turbulations around my garage.”


2011/05/17
11:15pm
rfox7743
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“diarrhea of the mouth” word might be twaddle or prattle

2011/06/18
7:53pm
lrussek
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Another term for “verbal diarrhea,” perhaps more commonly used in a medical context, is “perseverate.” Technical definition (from the Free Dictionary online):
“Uncontrollable repetition of a particular response, such as a word, phrase, or gesture, despite the absence or cessation of a stimulus, usually caused by brain injury or other organic disorder.”
Health care providers use this to describe patients who cannot stop talking, generally because of some neurological disorder, even though they (the patient, that is) often do not make sense.

2011/06/19
8:33am
rfox7743
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I’ve always heard the expression “diarrhea of the mouth” used in junction with “constipation of the mind”. Equals

    lots to say but very little content

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