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Not Those Thongs (full episode)
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2011/12/05
5:43pm
San Diego, California
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Is it cool for parents to use their children’s slang? What’s wrong with the term illegal alien? Grant and Martha discuss possible alternatives. Yehudi refers to the mysterious character who holds up strapless dresses, turns the light on in the fridge, and does lots of other things we can’t see. But why Yehudi? Also, terms from the lexicon of anatomy, an idiom puzzle, putzing around, out of pocket, long in the tooth, the ancient roots of the folksy expression even a blind pig can find an acorn, and answers to the question, “What do you call the slobber marks a dog leaves on a window?”


This episode first aired December 3, 2011.

Download the MP3.

 Generational Gaps
Does your vocabulary mark you as old or outdated? Certain words really indicate generational gaps, like chronological shibboleths. For example, are thongs panties or flip-flops? And what do women carry around — a pocketbook, a purse, or a bag? Your answer likely depends on when you were born.

 Parents Using Kids’ Slang
At what point is it inappropriate for parents to use the slang of their offspring? Can you call your son dude, or give your kids a beatdown in Scrabble? Living with children makes for a slang-filled home, so it becomes part of your regular speech. So long as your children aren’t mortified, go for it.

 Yehudi Did It
Who is Yehudi, and what exactly does he do? In the 1930s on Bob Hope’s radio show there was a musical guest named Yehudi Menuhin. His name proved so catchy, along with sidekick Jerry Colonna’s joking phrase, “Who’s Yehudi?” that it entered the common vernacular, coming to refer to anyone, or anything, mysterious. Yehudi is, for example, the little man that turns on the light inside the refrigerator. He holds up strapless dresses. The Navy even had a secret project named Project Yehudi.

 Anatomical Dictionary
Charles Hodgson’s Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy is chock-full of great terms. It’s best to keep the lipstick within the vermillion border, or that line where the lips meet the skin. And be careful when applying around the wick, or the corner of the mouth.

 But Word Quiz
Our Quizmaster John Chaneski has a puzzle based on clues with everything but the but. For example, when likening someone to a house, we say the lights are on, but nobody’s home. Or regarding a noisy political contest, it’s all over but the shouting.

 Putz Around
If someone’s being a bit lazy, or just moseying aimlessly, we say they’re putzing around. But the word put derives from the Yiddish for penis. Plenty of Yiddish words have made their way into the common vernacular, especially in the Northeast.

 Illegal Alien
A physician wants to know: Is it politically correct to use the phrase illegal alien? The Society of Professional Journalists have decided, collectively, to use illegal immigrant but even words like illegal or undocumented can often be inaccurate. If, for example, doctors are talking about a patient, they want to recognize the patient as an individual person, not a statistic.

 Post-It Notes
Speaking of those generational divides, did you know that Post-It notes haven’t always been around? Martha shares a listener’s funny email about that.

 Even a Blind Pig
If you’re having a tough time finding something, remember that even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while. This encouraging idiom actually comes from ancient Rome, where the concept of a blind animal turning something up lent itself to the Latin saying that a blind dove sometimes finds a pea. An 18th-century Friedrich Schiller play employed the blind-pig-and-acorn version, and the play’s translation into English and French may have brought it into modern English speech.

 New Vocabularies
What event in life introduced you to a whole new vocabulary? Going away to college, having a child, renovating a home, or even getting diagnosed with a medical condition often exposes us to huge bundles of new words. If you’re renovating a house for example, suddenly a whole slew of new words muscles its way into your vocabulary, such as backsplash, shoe molding, quarter-sawn oak, sconce, grout, and bullnose.

 Out of Pocket
What does out of pocket mean? The answer splits down racial lines. Among many African-Americans, if someone’s out of pocket, they’re out of line or unruly. For most non-African-American speakers, out of pocket is primarily used in business settings, meaning that someone is either unavailable or out of the office, or they’re paying for something with personal money, with an expectation of being reimbursed later.

 Dog Marks
What do you call those slobber marks that dogs leave on the inside of car windows? Some of our favorites are woofmarks, dog schmear, and snot kisses.

 Christian Blood
Is your name a conversation piece? A listener by the name of H. Christian Blood shares his story growing up with a colorful name. And for those of you with a comment to make, Christian Blood would remind you that he’s heard plenty of it over the years, so unless it’s really something sharp and original, it’s best not to waste your breath. And yes, his name is for real.

 Pennsylvania Dutch Saying
What crawled over your liver? This Pennsylvania Dutch idiom means “What’s the matter with you?”

 Long In The Tooth
If someone’s getting long in the tooth, it means they’re getting old, or too old for their behavior. The metaphor of long teeth comes from horses. If you look at a horse’s teeth and the extent to which their gums have receded, you can tell pretty accurately how old they are. It’s the same source as that old advice, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” which means “if someone gives you a gift, don’t inspect it too closely.”

Photo by Carnie Lewis. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy by Charles Hodgson

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Kohoutek Father’s Children Who’s Gonna Save The World Numero Group
Dirty Red Funk Inc Hangin’ Out Prestige
Where I’m Coming From Leon Spencer Where I’m Coming From Prestige
I Can See Clearly Now Funk Inc Hangin’ Out Prestige
Kelly’s Eye UK Groove Library Feeling The Breeze – Music De Wolfe UK Groove Library
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gerswin Songbook Verve
2011/12/06
12:50pm
Arkholt
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As for Dr. H. Christian Blood, if he and his family have “heard them all,” so to speak, I’m sure they’re familiar with the Jack Kirby comic book character The Demon, who is connected to the immortal Jason Blood. As a comic book enthusiast, this is where my mind leapt when I heard the last name Blood. If they’re not familiar with the character, then… how unfortunate.

2011/12/06
4:12pm
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Word usage does date you. Totally agree. I considered the words clockwise and counter-clockwise, now that we’re into the age of digital timing. Seems like (except for the town hall clock, e.g., “Big Ben” and the like) these words might eventually lose their meaning.

Then I discovered a nifty little book called “Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise.” Turns out that when mechanical clocks were first built, the decision about which direction to make them run was based on the movement of the shadow on a sundial.

Of course, that etymology would be lost on most people … you’d have to be an astronomy geek to see the connection.

2011/12/06
5:49pm
Ron Draney
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The whole time Christian Blood was talking about his name, and especially when he mentioned members of his family working in his father’s office, I kept waiting for someone to make reference to “Blood brothers”.

2011/12/06
7:21pm
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Heimhenge said:

Word usage does date you. Totally agree. I considered the words clockwise and counter-clockwise, now that we’re into the age of digital timing. Seems like (except for the town hall clock, e.g., “Big Ben” and the like) these words might eventually lose their meaning.

Then I discovered a nifty little book called “Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise.” Turns out that when mechanical clocks were first built, the decision about which direction to make them run was based on the movement of the shadow on a sundial.

Of course, that etymology would be lost on most people … you’d have to be an astronomy geek to see the connection.

The shadow on a sundial moves counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere (or part of the year in the region between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer).

Emmett

2011/12/06
10:38pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Yes, but the technological revolution that gave us clocks arose in the northern hemisphere. Hence the “standard.” Kinda’ like the way the constellations were named … northern hemisphere classical, southern hemisphere you have atrocities like Telescopium.”

2011/12/07
8:08am
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What a wonderful story about “Who’s Yehudi?”     I remember Jerry Colonna (I think the middle syllable is pronounced with a long “o”, Grant) for his bulging eyes and walrus-like moustache, but especially for his singing voice, which was often likened to an air raid siren.   You can listen to his 1954 album “Music? for Screaming!!!” at  this link:[blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/10/365-days-275—.html]. His siren-like voice comes through on the first note of “You’re My Everything”, but I especially like his rendition of “It Might As Well Be Spring”, in which he manages to turn “spring” into a five-syllable word (“uh-suh-puh-ruh-ing”).

2011/12/08
7:00pm
Beth
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I enjoyed hearing about generational words.   I would like to add the words “slacks” and “private area” to the list.  

My husband protests that stores still advertise “men’s slacks.”   However, I submit that those “slacks” are sold only to older men.  

In the Dec 11/Jan 12 Reader’s Digest (p. 83) there is a funny story about a townhouse newsletter that said, “It is the resident’s responsibility to keep their private area clean. Please refer to the rules and regulations if you don’t know where your private area is.”   My school-aged children are boggled by the notion anyone wouldn’t know what “private area” means (i.e., certain body parts), but I believe that the euphemism is relatively new.  

2011/12/08
7:03pm
Beth
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About “illegal alien,” must the person be labeled with a noun-phrase?   Maybe some of the time, we could write something like, “Because Mr. P doesn’t qualify for federal assistance . . . ” rather than “Because Mr. P is an illegal alien, . . . .”

2011/12/12
9:42am
telemath
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On the topic of generational language gaps…     A friend of mine, who is only  17 years older than me,  described a third friend as having “washboard abs”.   I would have said he had a “six pack”.

 

It seems like “washboard abs” had (is having?) a good run – long after people stopped using washboards to do laundry.

2011/12/13
8:42pm
johng423
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1. GENERATION GAP: Years ago an item appeared in Readers Digest humorously defining “thong” as “what Thinatra things.”[Yes, it included the final “s” instead the expected “th” of a consistent lisp.] I don’t know if today’s generation would recognize the reference to Ol’ Blue Eyes, who was gone (1998) before many college freshmen were in grade school.

2a. SLACKS: I understand that (at least at one time) in British English one spoke of “trousers”; “pants” referred to underwear (and was not a suitable topic for conversation in polite society). Is this still current usage?

2b. @dictionary.com: Slacks “loose trousers” first recorded 1824, originally military. (Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper)

3. DOG SLOBBER MARKS ON WINDOWS: Another name I’ve seen for this is “pup-kiss.”

4. PRIVATE AREA: Jay Leno wondered when young people started referring to their genitalia as “my junk.” His comment: “When I was a kid, they were known as ‘the family jewels.'” (That was for males only, of course; “junk” is used by both males and females.)
I wonder what underlying attitude the new phrase represents, and what brought about the change.

2012/04/30
2:20pm
perditechno
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Instead of illegal immigrant, how’s about ilmigrant?

2012/05/01
1:43am
RobertB
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Heimhenge said:

…   “Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise.” Turns out that when mechanical clocks were first built, the decision about which direction to make them run was based on the movement of the shadow on a sundial.

Even considering only the Northern Hemisphere, sundials do not always run ‘clockwise’ — The vertical south-facing designs run CCW, a famous example of which is the Sundial on Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

2012/05/01
5:26am
Glenn
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RobertB said:

Even considering only the Northern Hemisphere, sundials do not always run ‘clockwise’ — The vertical south-facing designs run CCW, a famous example of which is the Sundial on Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

Isn’t that a Moot point?

2012/05/01
7:52am
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RobertB said:

Heimhenge said:

…   “Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise.” Turns out that when mechanical clocks were first built, the decision about which direction to make them run was based on the movement of the shadow on a sundial.

Even considering only the Northern Hemisphere, sundials do not always run ‘clockwise’ — The vertical south-facing designs run CCW, a famous example of which is the Sundial on Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

Understood. I’m aware of those alternate sundial designs. For a truly accurate sundial you need to allow for latitude and longitude (within the time zone), as well as “the equation of time.” But what came first, and what most people think of when you say “sundial,” are those cheesy stamped metal deals that sit parallel to the ground. And in the northern hemisphere, they do “run” clockwise.

2012/05/01
11:46am
RobertB
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** No ** , Heimhenge , if a mechanical clock maker cared to imitate sundials at all, the greater likelihood is he would look to the vertical models, which were more modern and sophisticated than the horizontal ones. But who knows? I am saying that only to show how shaky any speculations can be once scrutinized more closely, no matter how reasonable or neat or interesting they might sound at first.

In this particular case concerning the link between the direction of modern clocks and sundial, unless there is some evidence, some quotations from historical records, which I doubt there is, I say no claim can be made at all.

2012/05/01
12:00pm
RobertB
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Glenn said:

 …The vertical south-facing designs run CCW, a famous example of which is the Sundial on Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.

Isn’t that a Moot point?

Definitely capital Moot but no low-case moot at all.  

2012/05/01
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RobertB said:

** No ** , Heimhenge , if a mechanical clock maker cared to imitate sundials at all, the greater likelihood is he would look to the vertical models, which were more modern and sophisticated than the horizontal ones. But who knows? I am saying that only to show how shaky any speculations can be once scrutinized more closely, no matter how reasonable or neat or interesting they might sound at first.

In this particular case concerning the link between the direction of modern clocks and sundial, unless there is some evidence, some quotations from historical records, which I doubt there is, I say no claim can be made at all.

I stand by my original assertion. The original “sundials” were nothing more than a stake in the ground, and the complex geometric variations didn’t appear until much later. The mechanical clock appeared only 100 years after those variations were suggested. See: http://www.accuratesundials.co…..age/143772

As for the clockwise direction issue, here’s a link to Wiki that agrees with my assertion (and if you check the page ratings, you’ll see it does much better than most):   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clockwise

If you want something more “academic” than Wiki, see NASA at: www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sundial.htm   (had to truncate that URL … forum software was breaking it up)

I trust I have made my case, but I’m happy to continue this exercise in etymological archeology.   :)

2012/05/03
8:22am
RobertB
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Heimhenge said:

 The original “sundials” were nothing more than a stake in the ground

There you go again- pure speculation sounding like truth.

The ancient people could easily get their idea out of a tree growing sideways out of a mountainside.

2012/05/03
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Glenn
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Robert, I can’t tell if you are being tongue-in-cheek or not. But the word “could” is a classic speculative lead-in, “easily” or not. And, if I had to choose between speculation involving a vertical tree and speculation involving a horizontal tree, my money and I would join Occam’s groats and sceattas resting comfortably in the shade of good, old-fashioned, upright tree.

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