Discussion Forum

Please consider registering
guest

Log In Register

Register | Lost password?
Advanced Search

— Forum Scope —

  

— Match —

   

— Forum Options —

   

Minimum search word length is 4 characters - maximum search word length is 84 characters

Topic RSS
Tweet, Tweet! Polly Wanna Cracker! (full episode)
Read the original blog post
Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 
2009/02/28
9:35am
San Diego, California
Admin
Forum Posts: 1423
Member Since:
2007/08/02
Offline

Twittering, tweeting, twirting—it’s rare to see a whole new body of language appear right before your eyes. But that’s what’s happening with Twitter. We discuss the snappy new shorthand of the twitterati. Also, why do people feel compelled to say “Polly wanna cracker?” whenever they see a parrot? And is it ever okay to end a sentence with a preposition?

Listen here:

[audio:http://feeds.waywordradio.org/~r/awwwpodcast/~5/rWK-12umxGQ/090302-AWWW-tweet-tweet-polly-wanna-cracker.mp3

Download the MP3 here (23.5 MB).

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

For a closer look at the language of the twitterati, check out Erin McKean’s recent piece in the Boston Globe. Glossaries of Twitter-related terms can be found at Twittonary, Twittionary, and Twictionary. We didn’t say all the coinages were clever!

By the way, you can now follow A Way with Words on Twitter.

A man who owns a parrot says that when people see his bird, they invariably ask the question “Polly wanna cracker?” He wonders about the origin of that psittacine phrase. Psittacine? It means parrot-like.

One of the earliest uses of the phrase so far found is this fake advertisement from the mock newspaper the Bunkum Flag-Staff and Independent Echo published in 1849 in The Knickerbocker magazine. It starts, “For sale, a Poll Parrot, cheap. He says a remarkable variety of words and phrases, cries, ‘Fire! fire!; and ‘You rascal!’ and ‘Polly want a cracker,’ and would not be parted with, but having been brought up with a sea-captain he is profane and swears too much.”

Below, a cartoon from The John-Donkey, July 29, 1848, p. 47, via Proquest American Periodical Series. The John-Donkey was a short-lived humorous and satirical magazine edited by Thomas Dunn English.

Is it ever okay to end a sentence with a preposition? Oh, is it ever! Martha and Grant do their best to bury this tired old proscription. It’s a baseless rule concocted by 17-century grammarians, and it’s errant nonsense up with which your hosts will not put.

Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a puzzle in which participants try to guess a word that could logically go before or after each of a trio of words. For example, if the three words are “nest,” “calories,” and “suit,” the answer is “empty,” as in “empty nest,” “empty calories,” and “empty suit.” So, can you guess why Greg calls this puzzle “Crown Play Time“?

Toward vs. towards: is it more correct to say “toward an object” or “towards an object”? Well, which side of the Atlantic are you on?

Martha tries out a couple of old-fashioned riddles on Grant. Here’s one: “What goes around the world, but stays in a corner?”

An F-18 fighter pilot worries that a term he and his colleagues often use isn’t a legitimate word. It’s deconflict, which means to ensure that aircraft aren’t in the same airspace. Grant reassures him that deconflict is a perfectly respectable term.

Is there a word for @#$%!^*)!&!, those typographical symbols standing in for profanity? There is indeed. It’s grawlix—not to be confused with jarns, quimps, nittles, lucaflects, or plewds. For more on such terms, check out cartoonist Mort Walker’s Private Scrapbook. There’s also an amazing list of grawlixes used in cartoons and comics from 1911 to 2008.

Grant answers a letter from a listener who wonders if it’s ever correct to use the word “fishes” instead of “fish.”

In this week’s round of Slang This!, a member of the National Puzzlers League tries to separate the real slang terms from the fake ones. For example, which of following expressions is British rhyming slang for “wife”: boiler house or the stitches? And which of these is prison slang for “cake” or “candy”: cho-cho or grimpen mire?

What do you call the nasty black mixture of snow and ice that builds up in your car’s wheel wells in wintry weather? Is there a word for this frigid gunk? Various names have been floating around, including hunkers, snard, snowlactites, knobacles, slud, snowtice, grice, carsicles, and snirt. A caller shares another her own family uses, braxis.

If people are on warmly congenial terms, they’re said to “get on like a house on fire.” Yet an Irishwoman says when she uses this expression in the U.S., she often gets puzzled looks. Is the expression that unusual?

When something’s crooked, some people describe it as catawampus, or cattywampus, or kittywampus. A caller wonders about the historical roots of all these words. Anything to do with felines?

2009/02/28
11:57am
Member
Forum Posts: 79
Member Since:
2009/02/01
Offline

The messages are “tweets”; the people signed up to get them are your followers – or tweeple, or tweeps (although there are people pushing twerps and twits as the proper nomenclature).

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/02/08/all_a_twitter/

I think “twerps” and “twits” would be subsets of “tweets”.
“twerps” a poignant opinion of a digested subject.
“twits” rhyming with http://www.thefreedictionary.com/quip

Polly
Slang for any non-white chick who loves to date white guys.
“Hey, looks like Tai Chi is giving you the eye Bro.”

“Yea, Polly wants a cracker!”

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=polly

©
2009/03/01
10:18am
Shari
Guest
3
0

While listening to the program this morning, 1 March 2009, two topics caught my attention and prompted me to send this e-mail: The first was the Polly-wanna-cracker discussion; the second was the snowy-build-up-in-wheel-wells discussion.

I grew up with and still occasionally use the old “Polly wanna cracker?” joke with the answer “Crack her yourself, you brought her here.”

And I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where snow was a fixture from early November until after Mother’s Day in May some years. Kicking that build-up off the car was a daily ritual, and we referred to it as a snard, a combination of snow and hard.

We in the western U.P. also used a term that folks down here in Wisconsin, where my husband and I now reside, find curious. As a youngster, I always panked the powdery snow if I wanted a nice surface for sledding or skiing, or if I didn’t have a shovel handy and wanted to make a walkway from the house to the road.

I’ve been in Wisconsin for nearly 34 years but am still being teased for many of the Yooperisms is used when we moved here. I believe I have finally eliminated the “hey?” from the end of my sentences, declarative or interrogatory.

One other item that might be of interest to you is a quotation I read on my nephew’s Facebook page. He didn’t know its author; perhaps you do. “Time flies like the wind; fruit flies like bananas.” How clever!

Love your show. As a former editor of a reading practice software for children, I often brought to work the answers to grammar questions that popped up every day.

2009/03/02
7:02am
San Diego, California
Admin
Forum Posts: 1423
Member Since:
2007/08/02
Offline
4
0

Matt, the “cracker” in “Polly wanna cracker” has nothing whatsoever to do with cracker=poor or rustic white person.

2009/03/02
9:33am
Member
Forum Posts: 79
Member Since:
2009/02/01
Offline
5
0

I doubt “cracker(rustic white person)”
held any meaning to phrase when
“polly want a cracker”
first became popular.

I think this may be a case of a kidnapped slogan.

©
2009/03/02
9:36am
San Diego, California
Admin
Forum Posts: 1423
Member Since:
2007/08/02
Offline

Matt, according to the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, the meaning of “cracker” as “a backwoods Southern white person regarded as ignorant, brutal, loutish, bigoted, etc.” dates to at least as early as 1766. The earliest use we have of “Polly wants a cracker” or any variant of that is 1848, which I found in my own research.

If you’re going to make claims about word and phrase origins, back them up with data. It’s the only way you’ll be taken seriously.

2009/03/02
9:47am
Member
Forum Posts: 79
Member Since:
2009/02/01
Offline
7
0

perhaps
pirates and merchants offered the polynesian people(island natives) crackers for trade or favor

©
2009/03/02
10:27am
Wichita Falls, TX
Member
Forum Posts: 31
Member Since:
2009/01/21
Offline
8
0

I had always used fishes when referring to a quantity of living, breathing organisms (regardless of species, such as the biblical “five loaves and two fishes” — whereas I’d use “fish” to generally refer to any amount of fish-matter, such as the kind you’d purchased as processed product. It’s interesting to know I ought instead use “fishes” in regard to more than one fish from more than one species ^_^

The longest series of successive prepositions that finished off a sentence I’ve heard has been, “What did you bring that book I wanted to be read to out of up for?”.

My question: where does the idea come from that a word must be legitimate (such as the pilot’s inquiry as to whether deconflict was elligible for use) in order to be used? Is the common understanding for “word” itself something that must pass through some degree of scrutiny and be red-lighted for legal use, rather than being literally *any* (at all) combination of letters or sounds that represent an idea? My suspicion is that dictionaries are too often interpreted as sources for the rules, rather than the “word newspapers” as they are. In the same way that a newspaper itself doesn’t dictate how events shall transpire but instead reports on how events have or may be expected to — a dictionary ought be better understood as a listing of commonly used words of the distant to recent past in the ways listed. Agree/disagree?

2009/03/02
2:42pm
etherdog
New Member
Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
2009/03/02
Offline
9
0

Would not the plural of grawlix be grawlices (index/indices)?

2009/03/02
6:50pm
Cap
New Member
Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
2009/03/02
Offline
10
0

Shari said:

“Time flies like the wind; fruit flies like bananas.”

From an early humor book “Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana”…

Author? Groucho Marx

2009/03/03
2:46pm
claudia807
New Member
Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
2009/03/03
Offline
11
0

I’m struggling with the preposition issue. When my husband asks, “Where is the car parked at?” . . . that’s still incorrect, yes?

2009/03/03
3:41pm
Glenn
Admin
Forum Posts: 1604
Member Since:
2009/03/03
Offline
12
0

I don’t have an official answer to the acceptability of “Where is the car parked at?” but I hope it has crossed the line from nonstandard to acceptable.

I have a theory about use of “Where at?” In my lifetime, the use of “whence,” and “whither,” lessened to the point of extinction. When the three coexisted, there was no need for any preposition to clarify. Once “whither” and “whence” were extinct, we were left with only “where” and an added preposition. “Whence” was functionally replaced by “Where … from;” “whither” by “where … to.” Analogy suggests “Where … at.”

Granted, some contexts or marked verbs would allow the preposition to be omitted. Consider “Where are you going?” (No “to” necessary.) But “Where are you walking?” is potentially ambiguous. At least it could easily be the “where” or the “whither” sense. My guess is that the most natural reading of “Where are you walking?” is “Where are you walking (to)?” If you want to know the location, or confines (at the park, on the high-school track, etc.), you would be wise to ask “Where are you walking at?” The “whence” sense seems to demand the “from”: “I’ve been walking for hours! … Really? Where did you walk from?”

I think those who reject “where … at” should consider reverting to the use of “whence” and “whither” or come up with some other way to fill the need to distinguish these directional meanings.

2009/03/05
11:46am
dilettante
Member
Forum Posts: 287
Member Since:
2007/09/16
Offline
13
0

errant nonsense up with which your hosts will not put

I think that’s “arrant”, at least in the context of the Churchill attribution. Speaking of which, Benjamin Zimmer has done some research on the shaky provenance of that quote, which you can read about here and here.

2009/03/07
1:09am
Ron Draney
Member
Forum Posts: 630
Member Since:
2009/03/06
Offline
14
0

I should be ashamed of myself, but I can’t resist….

Parrots are said to enjoy the taste of squid or cuttlefish, such as the “sake ika” sold in a Japanese market near my home. (John Cleese even makes passing reference to this in the famous “dead parrot” sketch.) I’ve often wanted to train a parrot to ask for this treat by saying “Polly wants a kraken”.

I’m sorry. I’m deeply, deeply sorry.

2009/03/07
1:17pm
San Diego, CA
Admin
Forum Posts: 820
Member Since:
2007/08/02
Offline
15
0

Claudia807, I understand your question here. I think a lot of people would reject “Where is the car parked at?” simply because the “at” is redundant, don’t you think?

2009/03/07
1:18pm
San Diego, CA
Admin
Forum Posts: 820
Member Since:
2007/08/02
Offline
16
0

Or maybe rather than “redundant,” I should have said “superfluous.”

2009/03/07
1:22pm
San Diego, CA
Admin
Forum Posts: 820
Member Since:
2007/08/02
Offline
17
0

>>I think that’s “arrant”, at least in the context of the Churchill attribution. <<>Speaking of which, Benjamin Zimmer has done some research on the shaky provenance of that quote, which you can read about here and here.<<

Yes, and for that very reason, I was careful to say “Churchill, among others” or something like that. More good stuff on this from Fred Shapiro’s mighty fine Yale Book of Quotations.

2009/03/07
1:23pm
San Diego, CA
Admin
Forum Posts: 820
Member Since:
2007/08/02
Offline
18
0

Ron, that’s forty lashes with a wet dictionary page for you! :-)

2009/03/07
8:18pm
Glenn
Admin
Forum Posts: 1604
Member Since:
2009/03/03
Offline
19
0

Martha, would you also reject “Where are you going to?” for the same reason? How about “where does the ship depart from?”

2009/03/08
2:59pm
srleonard
Member
Forum Posts: 5
Member Since:
2009/03/08
Offline
20
0

Joke: A Texan is sitting at a bar. A professor from Harvard comes in and sits next to him. The Texan says, “Where are you from?” The professor says, “At Hahvad we do not end a sentence in a preposition.” The Texan replies, “O.K., where are you from–jackass?”

Forum Timezone: America/Los_Angeles

Most Users Ever Online: 1147

Currently Online:
66 Guest(s)

Currently Browsing this Page:
1 Guest(s)

Top Posters:

Heimhenge: 788

Bob Bridges: 675

Ron Draney: 630

RobertB: 423

Robert: 415

tromboniator: 395

Dick: 393

samaphore: 312

dilettante: 287

deaconB: 273

Member Stats:

Guest Posters: 608

Members: 2990

Moderators: 1

Admins: 5

Forum Stats:

Groups: 1

Forums: 1

Topics: 3162

Posts: 16706

Newest Members: wordmaven541, brandon891, yunda, drue, timofranc, onemonthspanish, TragedyoftheMoon, Itercoyuk, repechek, britman

Administrators: Martha Barnette: 820, Grant Barrett: 1423, EmmettRedd: 640, Glenn: 1604, timfelten: 0