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Lunatic Fringe (full episode)
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2010/10/24
9:56pm
San Diego, California
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In this week's episode, "It was bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." Martha and Grant discuss their favorite first lines from novels. Also this week, palmer-housing, beanplating, meeting cute, bad billboard grammar, and what it means when someone says you look like a tree full of owls. And which is correct: another thing coming or another think coming?


This episode originally aired Oct. 24, 2010.

Download the MP3 here (25.2 MB).

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

Some novels grab you from the get-go. "I am an invisible man." "Call me Ishmael." "The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting." Martha and Grant discuss some of their favorite first lines.

You're falling asleep, then suddenly snap awake. There's a term for that: hypnagogic startle or hypnic jerk.

A North Carolina listener reports seeing a billboard that read, "Be Stronger Connected to Your Son." Bad grammar or good advertising?

When is your golden birthday? It's when your age and the date match, such as turning 23 years old on the 23rd day of the month.

Quiz Guy John Chaneski presents a puzzle involving inverted M's and W's called "Turn the Worm."

Among some African-Americans, the term palmer-housing means, "walking with an unusual gait." A screenwriter connects some dots in his own family's history when he asks about the origin.

In the film industry, the expression meet cute refers to "an overly precious first encounter between the romantic leads."

A man named Kris wants to name his son Qhristopher. Have a problem with that?

Grant shares some favorite bad first lines from novels.

The hosts tackle a longstanding mystery about the word shoshabong.

A favorite quotation from George Eliot: "Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact."

Is the correct phrase another think coming or another thing coming?

Grant reveals the surprising origin of the term lunatic fringe.

The term like a tree full of owls describes someone's appearance. What does it mean, exactly? And why owls?

Need a great synonym for "overthinking"? Try beanplating.

2010/10/25
12:24am
Ron Draney
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Grant Barrett said:

Some novels grab you from the get-go. "I am an invisible man." "Call me Ishmael." "The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting." Martha and Grant discuss some of their favorite first lines.

One of my favorites is the opening of Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon: "The door dilated."

You're falling asleep, then suddenly snap awake. There's a term for that: hypnagogic startle or hypnic jerk.

I was screaming at the radio: "myoclonic jerk!" When I got back home and looked it up, it turns out that's a more general term for any sort of involuntary muscle spasm.

A North Carolina listener reports seeing a billboard that read, "Be Stronger Connected to Your Son." Bad grammar or good advertising?

Really good advertising. Rather than Grant's suggestion that some copywriter got it right and then someone else messed it up later, I figure the copywriter wrote it just like that. Got you talking about it, didn't it?

When is your golden birthday? It's when your age and the date match, such as turning 23 years old on the 23rd day of the month.

I'm afraid I didn't appreciate mine, given that it happened back in 1963.

A man named Kris wants to name his son Qhristopher. Have a problem with that?

I don't, but his son might when he gets to school and the other kids call him "Queer-istopher". The most important part of choosing a name for your child is avoiding opportunities for people to turn it into an insult. (Unfortunately, I've got a last name that made that impossible, especially having a plumber for a father.)

Is the correct phrase another think coming or another thing coming?

Is it a mere coincidence that three of the items in this week's show concern words jumping from one part of speech to another? You've got the "stronger connected" billboard, the discussion of "meet cute", and now this.

(By the way, I had a sort of "meet cute" with someone I dated for a few years (if the salient point is that the initial meeting carries a bit of antagonism). It was Labor Day weekend, and I was telling someone at the pool that they seemed to favor "Vegas"-style acts on the telethon because people who preferred such entertainment would be more likely to have lots of money to pledge. My future girlfriend took offense at the theory, apparently thinking I was downplaying the importance of the cause itself.)

2010/10/25
11:47am
Wichita Falls, TX
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I was so hoping Grant would pick up on the real meaning when suggesting the dash between Stronger and Connected, regarding the badvertisement! Come on, people! There's very very obviously an implied "whilst" or "since you are able to be," after Stronger, and Stronger very obviously means mentally/emotionally, because of the illustration of the woman with the eye-black. She's probably not depicted as an actual athlete that requires eye-black, and is obviously able to maintain her emotional strength because she's able to remain connected to her son, and that their distance apart is not something that would deteriorate her wherewithal. Grant almost had it with the "Think Different" comparison, but just stopped right there. The grammar is clearly wrong (given that they're bound by an agreed-upon style manual) IF Stronger was actually intended to modify Connected, but instead Stronger modifies the imperative's implied subject of You ("You [+/-will] stay stronger connected to your son.") Something also not mentioned is whether there is a carriage return after Stronger, which would help its case a little. I think the sentence is perfectly fine as-is.

As for having "another thing" coming, the mystery "thing" to have another of, is a "think," methinks.

I think you misspelled your mystery word, "shoshabong" instead being "skoshabong," which gets two Google hits: one from a Mini Cooper forum gent speaking on driving a ricket car (from Oct.14'08), and another commenter under a news article about a man claiming to be an under cover cop sexually abused a girl who skipped school, referred to the supposed cop as a skoshabong (from Jan.11'08). The profiles of both users are from the New England area (the first from New Jersey, the second from Shirley NY)..

A note about Lunatic Fringe, is that "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion", a launch game (a game that debuts the day the game system debuts) for the Xbox 360 (which has loads of remarkable word-nerd aspects), has an extra add-on to buy called The Shivering Isles. The add-on is an expansion for the game that teleports the player into a new realm to do missions whilst inside and, to make a long story short, is governed by a rather crazy king and all of its inhabitants are also more or less crazy. The king often refers to his realm as The Fringe, and with him being a lunatic of sorts, the game programmers seem to have been beating around the "lunatic fringe" bush without ever using that specific phrase, I think.

2010/10/27
4:12pm
Zuccherino
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The men at work at the corner of the street had made a kind of camp for themselves, where, marked out by tripods hung with red hurricane-lamps, an abyss in the road led down to a network of subterranean drain-pipes.

That's the first line of the first of the 12 novels that make up A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

2010/10/27
5:53pm
Twisted Logic
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H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe are my favorite story openers, if you're counting short stories.

Lovecraft:
"In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint distant baying of some gigantic hound."
-"The Hound"

"I am writing this under an appriciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more."
-"Dagon"

"Bear in mind closely that I did not see any actual visual horror at the end."
-"The Whisperer in Darkness"

"It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire."
-"The Cats of Ulthar"

Poe:
"True! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad?"
-"A Tell-Tale Heart"

"The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge."
-"The Cask of Amontillado"

"DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher."
-"The Fall of the House of Usher" (Of course ;))

2010/10/30
3:31am
yasgur
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The term like a tree full of owls describes someone's appearance. What does it mean, exactly? And why owls?

I was thinking of that phrase this morning, Googled it and found this site. I was compelled, yes compelled, to sign up and comment.

I've always enjoyed reading and when I was a wee lad my parents had a decent collection of books. One of my favorites was entitled Brave Men. It was a collection of columns by Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent in WWII. In one he was with a bunch of GI's resting along the side of a road, halfway up a mountain in Sicily. These men had been in the field for quite a while and, as you'd expect, looked pretty ragged. One of them looked around the group and said "Y'all look like a tree full of owls."

That phrase has stuck with me for over 50 years and brought a picture to my mind of a tree with owls lining every branch…owls hunkering down like they do…with ears and feathers pointing every which way. Is that what the phrase is supposed to mean? No clue, but I like it.
http://hungoverowls.tumblr.com/post/1051814842/im-just-gonna-im-just-gonna-alright-im-good

Edit: This has been nagging at me and I found Brave Men on Google Books. The scenario actually took place in a goat shed.

The soldiers hadn't shaved for weeks, or washed either. And they always slept with their clothes on. When they first came out of their blankets on a cold morning they were enough to frighten children.

It was at that early morning moment when one soldier looked for a long time at another and then said "Cripes, you look like a tree full of owls."

So sue me for a faulty memory.

2010/10/31
8:20pm
imajoebob
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Upon hearing your discussion of "skoshabon" (I'm assuming it's a typo in the blog), I didn't consider the phonetic spelling, but instead "Scotia bon." I quickly assumed my own (imagined) etymology. Is it possible that its origin comes from Qu̩bec? Knowing the Scottish reputation for thriftiness, I'd guess the Scots in Nova Scotia might have hung on to their goods a little longer than the Qu̩becers, thus having a worn, tattered appearance. So an old, beaten up, but serviceable item that might not be acceptable to you or me, for the Scots was good Рor "Scotia bon in a bit a tortured French (for which the French Canadians have their own reputation)."

That may be a bit of fancy, but it holds a logic I like. And no, I didn't spend a lot of time Bean Plating it.

2010/11/22
12:04pm
Lee
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A man named Kris wants to name his son Qhristopher. Have a problem with that?

*Ahem* – the caller's name is spelled Khris. And I'm not absolutely sure that it was Qhristopher's father who called….

2011/07/19
8:37am
LangstonHughes
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I agree with imajoebob. With "skoshabon" my mind immediately went to Nova Scotia, particularly the 'Halifax Disaster' in which an explosion took place on a boat due to lack of planning and proper control, killing many. Could someone have referred to this in some point in time as Scotia Bomb? Which would describe the situation the caller mentioned and perhaps be a derogatory term.

Also, the phrase "Tree Full of Owls". You guys were close but I believe the caller's husband was basically saying "you're sitting there like a tree full of owls" meaning 'thinking you're WISER than a tree full of owls', and thus being a 'wiseass'. Or as the caller said 'having no idea what she's talking about".

And couldn't the word beanplating be a reference to your brain as well? Over thinking something?

2011/08/04
5:17am
aalew
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I heard the show the other day in the car and was pleasantly surprised by the 'skoshabon' portion. My grandmother was from Ireland and my grandfather was a Jew from Russia. Immigrating to America they lived in NYC for several years and they both used that word. I always thought it was related to 'skosh'. As in, 'A crappy little thing' would be what the speaker means by 'skoshabon'. I have no idea how they would have spelled it. I know 'skosh' is supposed to have come from 'sukoshi'. Is there a chance this is just a bit of NYC immigrant slang?

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