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The Whole Kit and Caboodle (full episode)
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2011/11/14
10:41am
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Nothing brightens up an email like an emoticon. But is it appropriate to include a smiley face in an email to your boss? Also, what do time management experts mean when they say you should start each day by "eating the frog"? Plus, the story behind the phrase "the whole kit and caboodle," and some book recommendations for language lovers. If you see the trash can as half-full, are you an optimist or a pessimist? A puzzle involving breakfast cereals, the difference between "adept" and "deft", and the origin of the political term "solon". And what in the world is a "hoorah's nest"?

This episode first aired November 12, 2011.

Download the MP3 here.

 Emoticons in Business
Is it appropriate to use emoticons in business emails? After all, you wouldn't write a smiley face in a printed letter, right? Martha and Grant discuss the point at which you start using those little symbols in correspondence. Call it "The Rubicon on the Emoticon." Judith Newman has more observations about emoticons in business correspondence in this New York Times piece.

 Not-So-Petty Officers
Why are non-commissioned Naval officers called petty officers? After all, there's nothing petty about them. The term comes from the French "petit," meaning "under, less than, or ranking below in a hierarchy." Petty comes up in myriad instances of formal language, such as petty theft, which is a lesser charge than grand larceny.

 All Told
To summarize something, we often use the phrase "all told." But should it be "all tolled"? The correct phrase, "all told," comes from an old use of the word tell meaning "to count," as in a bank teller. All told is an example of an absolute construction — a phrase that, in other words, can't be broken down and must be treated as a single entity.

 Good Night on the Big Drum
What do parents say when they tuck their children in at night? How about "good night, sleep tight, and see you on the big drum"? Have you heard that one, which may have to do with an old regiment in the British Army?

 Eating the Frog
How do you manage your time? Perhaps by eating the frog, which means "to do the most distasteful task first." This is also known as "carrying guts to a bear."

 Breakfast Cereal Word Game
From Puzzle Guy John Chaneski comes a great game for the breakfast table in the tradition of such cereal names as Cheerios and Wheaties. What kind of cereal does a hedge fund manager eat? Portfolios! And what do Liberal Arts majors pour in their bowls? Humanities!

 Adept vs. Deft
What is the difference between "adept" and "deft"? It's similar to that between mastery and artistry. "Adept" often describes a person, as in, "Messi is adept at dribbling a soccer ball." "Deft," on the other hand, is usually applied to the product of an act, such as "deft brush strokes."

 Intentional Mispronounciation
There are some words we just love to mispronounce, like "spatula" as "spatular," which rhymes with "bachelor."

 Make Hay
If someone plans to make hay of something, they're going to take advantage of it. It comes from the idiom "make hay while the sun shines," based on the fact that moving hay can be a real pain when it's dark and damp.

 More Product for Your Hair
Martha has a follow-up to an earlier call about why hairstylists advise clients to use product on their hair. At least in the food business, product often refers to the item before it's ready for consumption. For example, coffee grounds might be called product, but once it has been brewed, it becomes coffee.

 Half Full of What?
If you see the trash can as half full, does that make you an optimist or a pessimist? Since it's half full of garbage, as opposed to daisies or puppies, it's questionable. On the other hand, in the tweeted words of Jill Morris: "Some people look at the glass as half empty. I look at the glass as a weapon. You can never be too safe around pessimists."

 Kit and Kaboodle
If we're talking about the whole lot of something, we call it the whole kit and kaboodle. But what's a kaboodle? In Dutch, a "kit en boedel" refer to a house and everything in it. For the sake of the English idiom, we just slapped the "k" in front.

 Recommended Books
Grant has two great children's books to recommend: The Three Pigs by David Wiesner, a meta-narrative based on the classic title characters, and Elephant Wish, a touching cross-generational story by Lou Berger, the head writer of Sesame Street. Martha recommends The Word Project: Odd and Obscure Words, beautifully illustrated by Polly M. Law. Stop by your local bookseller and pick up a copy for your sweetheart, a.k.a. your pigsney!

 Hoorah's Nest
If something's messy, it looks like a hoorah's nest. But what's a hoorah? It beats us. All we know is, it leaves its nest in a real state of confusion, and does it well enough to inspire a popular idiom.

 Authors with a Letter Missing
The Twitter hashtag #Bookswithalettermissing has proved to be a popular one. We discussed some great examples in an earlier episode.

But why not take a letter off the author as well? As in, Animal Far by George Owell, the story about an animal that ran away, prompting a nonchalant farmer to say, "Oh, well." (The joke's doubly funny if you know that the name "George" comes from the Greek for "farmer.")

 At vs. By
There's some confusion about the uses of "at" and "by", particularly among those for whom English is a second language. Prepositions often cause trouble, because they don't translate perfectly. Nonetheless, it's important to know that in standard English, if someone is staying home, they're staying at home, not by home.

 Etymological Mish-Mashery
Here's a testy T-shirt slogan: "Polyamory is wrong! It's either multiamory or polyphilia. But mixing Greek and Latin roots? Wrong!"

 Solon
"Solon" often pops up in headlines as a label for legislators. It is actually an eponym, referring to Solon, an esteemed lawgiver from ancient Athens who lay much of the groundwork for the original democracy. Nowadays, however, the term solon is commonly used ironically, since our legislators don't display the noble disinterest that Solon did a few millennia ago.

 A Writer Is a Person…
The great Leonard Bernstein once said, "A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." What are your favorite quotes on writing?

Photo by Maria Bowskill. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
Elephant Wish by Lou Berger
The Word Project: Odd and Obscure Words by Polly M. Law

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
No Way! Boogaloo Joe Jones No Way! Prestige
The Kung Fu Lords of Percussion The Kung Fu 45rpm Old Town Records
I Can Dig It Booker T and The MG's Doin' Our Thing Stax
I Likes To Do It People's Choice I Likes To Do It Guyden
Baby Batter Harvey Mandel Baby Batter Janus Records
I'm a Lonely Man Harvey Mandel Get Off In Chicago Ovation Records
Expressway (To Your Heart) Booker T and The MG's Doin' Our Thing Stax
Brown Bag Boogaloo Joe Jones Right On, Brother! Prestige
Before Six Harvey Mandel Cristo Redentor Philips
Message From The Meters Leon Spencer Sneak Peak Prestige
Let's Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George And Ira Gerswin Songbook UMG Recordings
2011/11/14
11:23am
Glenn
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While I am loath to disagree with the wisdom of a T-shirt, English has many hybrid words containing mixed Latin and Greek roots, some very common, perfectly accepted, and perfectly acceptable. While Latin / Greek compound words are the most common of the class of hybrid words, there are also other hybrid words. Here are some examples for your consideration:

Accelerometer
Aquaphobia
Automobile
Bigamy
Bioluminescence
Dysfunction
Electrocution
Hexadecimal
Homosexual
Hyperactive
Liposuction
Mammography
Metadata
Monoculture
Neoliberal
Neuroscience
Neurotransmitter
Quadraphonic
Quadriplegia
Sociology
Television
Tonsillectomy

Other interesting hybrids are:
Microwave
Petrochemical
Speedometer

[edit: added the following] It just occurs to me that I have provided the ammunition for a new and enhanced T-shirt
"Quadraphonic television and its electrocution of the neoliberal monoculture of homosexual polyamory is sociologically dysfunctional. And that's all wrong! (They mix Latin and Greek roots unnaturally. Ewww!)" Now there is a catchy T-shirt slogan.

2011/11/14
11:42am
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Back a few years ago, when computer disk memory was limited and one needed more space to copy files, it was the optimist who said his disk was half empty.

Because I use an older technology (sickle) mower, I also must make hay while the sun shines. However, the newer disk mowers can cut wet hay. This can be advantageous in that the drying conditions can partially remove the external and internal moisture concurrently, shortening the drying time. I must wait for these removals to occur consecutively. However, I do have a tedder which helps significantly when more rain is threatening.

Emmett

2011/11/14
1:31pm
Ron Draney
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Back when I was working on salary, a number of us decided that when your wastebasket was full, regardless of the time, you were done for the day. The janitorial staff would only empty wastebaskets once a day, and there were serious repercussions if we did such a thing ourselves, so when you ran out of places to throw things away, you couldn't very well do any more work (where "work" is defined as "dealing with all the pointless paper communication that kept coming around"). So a wastebasket that's half-full means you're making progress but not there yet.

A pessimist sees the glass as half-empty; an optometrist asks if you see the glass more full like this? Or like this?

2011/11/14
6:56pm
CheddarMelt
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I would say that the girl with the trash bag was neither a pessimist nor an optimist, but a forward-thinking speaker.

 

Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

Depends--am I emptying it or filling it?

2011/11/14
10:55pm
Ruth
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On the question of "by" instead of "at" (as in, we're having dinner by Becky tonight)--I think Martha was correct that this is a Yiddishism, and it seems to be a standard usage among the more religious/orthodox groups, particularly Chassidim, and even among native English speakers.

During a weekend I spent in Tzfat, in Northern Israel, local families invited visitors for Friday night dinner.  We were given slips of paper that read, "You'll be having Shabbat dinner by the[Benarosh] family, who live at [street address]", which suggests that "by" is used for the people who live in a house and "at" for the physical address.

My family from Milwaukee also uses "by" in this way, although in this case it may be due to the German influence:  "Are you coming by us for Labor Day weekend?" -- word-for-word translation of "bei uns".

As Martha suggests, once you're aware of the difference it's easy to switch styles appropriately.  In Jewish/Chassic settings, I always use "by", but with anyone else, it's "at" or "with":

"I'll be by my parents that weekend." -- "I'll be with my parents/at my parents'/at my parents' home that weekend."

2011/11/15
7:13am
Glenn
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I was intrigued by the discussion of "by me." As I mentioned in response to another thread, (by George!) using by with a person to represent their house is a part of my informal language range. While neither of my parents spoke any language other than American English, and I have no Jewish (Hebrew or Yiddish) family ties, I did grow up in an ethnically diverse, pan-European, urban neighborhood. All sorts of religions, languages, accents, and dialects were present. My parents, raised likewise, used this construction as well.

English does not have a convenient preposition of locality analogous to those found in many languages to represent someone's place (e.g., German bei + dative; French chez + prepositional; Russian у + genitive[u + genitive]; perhaps Old Spanish onde; Hebrew בֵּית [beth]; Latin apud + accusative). In English you have to use a longer phrase, like: at someone's place. Perhaps this nonstandard use of by crept into some dialects of English to fill a perceived gap in English.

I agree that German (or the Germanic Yiddish) is the most likely origin.

2011/11/15
10:32am
mefikmz
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The "make hay" question seemed way more straightforward than what the caller or Grant and Martha said. It's still a positive expression, but the show she was watching was talking about wanting to prevent "enemies" from "making hay". A positive for an enemy is a negative for you.

2011/11/15
10:37am
Glenn
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mefikmz said:

The "make hay" question seemed way more straightforward than what the caller or Grant and Martha said. It's still a positive expression, but the show she was watching was talking about wanting to prevent "enemies" from "making hay". A positive for an enemy is a negative for you.

Say. It strikes me that this relates obliquely to the trash-can-half-full question. The meaning flip-flops from positive to negative depending upon which position and perspective you take on the situation.

2011/11/16
12:59pm
catsforehead
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Grant Barrett said:

 

But why not take a letter off the author as well? As in, Animal Far by George Owell, the story about an animal that ran away, prompting a nonchalant farmer to say, "Oh, well." (The joke's doubly funny if you know that the name "George" comes from the Greek for "farmer.")

 

The Heat is a Lonely Hunter

by Arson McCullers

 

2011/11/17
4:10pm
ltw246
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My favorite quotation on writing is from Elmore Leonard: "I try to leave out the parts people skip."

Also, I have usually heard  "A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people" attributed to Thomas Mann (from the story "Tristan" if I'm not mistaken) rather than Leonard Bernstein. Regardless of who said it, I agree with the sentiment.

2011/11/21
3:19pm
telemath
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I have heard the "eating the frog" saying phrased as, "Eat a frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to either of you the rest of the day."

 

Fun words to mispronounce: I like reading the "Road Construction" signs as "Road Constriction."

2011/11/21
4:23pm
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telemath said:

Fun words to mispronounce: I like reading the "Road Construction" signs as "Road Constriction."

Here is Dilbert's take.

2011/12/16
5:21pm
lorents
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about see you at the big drum…

Back in the 18th century before bugles reveille was a drum call.

I had never heard "see you at the big drum" before this evening.

I am a part time listener Kit and Caboodle caught my eye. Just had to listen. Glad I did.

Google "drum call" or "morning drum call"

 

Be seeing you,

Lorents

2011/12/17
9:51am
Danny
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Grant and Martha offered "great children's books to recommend."  My favorite children's book in a long time is an abecedary (which is a fantastic word, right?): A is for Salad, a wacky and irreverent tour through the alphabet, put together by the accomplished cartoonist Mike Lester.

2012/07/14
2:51pm
lasivian
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CheddarMelt said:

I would say that the girl with the trash bag was neither a pessimist nor an optimist, but a forward-thinking speaker.

 

Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

Depends--am I emptying it or filling it?

I completely agree. I have always seen half-full or half-empty as a description not only of what one is seeing, but also the circumstances of how it got that way.

 

If you are filling a glass with wine and you stop halfway it is now "half-full", if you fill a glass and drink half it is now "half-empty".

 

One might say "But what if you walk in and see a glass and it contains half of it's capacity of liquid, what then?", I would say more than likely it is "half-full" unless it's surroundings indicate it has been emptied for some purpose (lip-marks on the rim of a water glass for example) since it had to have liquid added by default even if half was removed.

 

As to the trash I would say "half-full" fits best, as you generally do not empty your own trash can.

 

This could all be cleared up by saying "It is at half capacity", but I doubt that will happen anytime soon for most people, heh.

2012/07/14
5:22pm
K the G
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This is one of my pet peeves.  Empty and full are incomparable adjectives and therefore cannot be quantified.

2012/07/18
10:32pm
hippogriff
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Petty officer: Roughly equivalent to Non-Commissioned Officer in other branches. However, a CPO is right up there with a master sergeant or even the sergeant-major in the British system.

I can't see it relating to going to bed, but a tenor drum (larger but no snares) were traditionally used as a desk for British army recruiters (and picking up the symbolic shilling marked the transition from civil to military law), so I can see someone saying it to a prospective recruit at the pub, to see them the next day and join. A stretch, but I tried.

I can see an attack on Fort Knox! The vault is inside reinforced concrete in a building surrounded by security devices, in the middle of a tank training base.

Hoorah reminded me of the US Marine shout of approval, a bit older than contact with the Lakota haú (misquoted as a greeting, how).

Writing quote: Rudolph Flesch: "The art of readable writing is the art of rewriting."

I like the new format.

2012/07/19
8:34pm
Dick
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This is a slight variation on the discussion about half full.  At times when I ask someone to pour a drink into my glass, I will say, "Fill it halfway."  But every time I say that I think of it as an oxymoron because they are not filling it if it ends up only half full.  Am I right with this thought?  If so, is there a better way to say this?

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