Good poetry is even better when you read it aloud. For his anthology, Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky selected works with just that in mind. Martha and Grant discuss a poem from the book with lines that are more delicious when spoken. Also this week: If a woman decides to keep her own name after getting married, should she be addressed as Ms. or Mrs.? When you were young, what did you call your favorite blanket? When do you redd up the table, and what does it mean to be out like Lottie’s eye?

This episode first aired January 23, 2010.

Download the MP3.

 Essential Pleasures Poetry
The hosts talk about some verses from Essential Pleasures, Robert Pinsky’s anthology of poems meant to be read aloud.

 Married Woman Who Keeps Her Name
If a woman decides to keep her own name after getting married, should she be addressed as Ms. or Mrs.?

 Slang Term “Fronting”
“Don’t be frontin’!” A Texas college student is curious about the origin of fronting, and learns that it goes back several decades to the world of petty criminals.

 Chimney Riddle
What can go up a chimney down, but not down a chimney up? Martha has that riddle’s answer.

 Happy Word Puzzle
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a happy time with a word puzzle whose answers all include the word happy. Try this: “The nickname of Xaviera Hollander, as derived from the title of her bestselling 1971 memoir.”

 Favorite Blanket Names
When you were small, did you have a favorite blanket? If so, what’d you call it? A woobie? A blankie? A listener says her grandmother called hers an ookoosh, and wonders if the word reflects grandma’s Czech roots.

 U-Turn in Other Languages
If you’re driving and need to turn 180 degrees, you make a U-turn. But what do you make if you speak a language that doesn’t include the letter “U”? If you’re a Hindi speaker, what do you call wearing a V-neck sweater in an A-frame house?

 Out Like Lottie’s Eye
When someone’s fast asleep, a Texan might say that he’s “out like Lottie’s eye.” But who’s Lottie and what happened to her eye?

 When Kids Start Speaking Late
Some children don’t talk until they’re age three or older, then go on to do just fine. Why do some kids start speaking relatively late in life? The hosts talk about a recent Ask MetaFilter thread on that topic.

 Good with Packing
Is there a word that describes someone who’s good at visualizing how best to pack a suitcase or car? A Michigan woman is sure she heard such a term for someone who can visualize 3-D arrangements in advance, but darned if she can recall what it is. Can the hosts help?

 Etymology of Homie
A Connecticut listener is suspicious of a Wikipedia entry that claims the slang term homie derives from Latin homo, meaning man.

 Mexican-American Proverbs
The Spanish phrase “Donde lloran, esta el muerto” literally translates as “Where there’s crying, there’s a dead person.” In everyday use, however, the meaning is somewhat different. You might use it, for example, to describe someone who claims not to have money when in fact he does. A bilingual caller wonders if there’s an analogous expression that refers to someone who’s miserly despite being wealthy. Grant recommends he check out A Dictionary of Mexican-American Proverbs by Mark Glazer.

 Pencil Riddle
Another riddle: I’m taken from a mine and shut up in a wooden case from which I’m never released, yet I’m used by almost everybody. Who am I?

 Redd Up
“Redd up the table!” A California listener says he remembers hearing that all the time when growing up in Iowa, but now that he’s on the West Coast, no one has any idea what he’s talking about.

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

Photo by Dave Smith. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud by Robert Pinsky
A Dictionary of Mexican-American Proverbs by Mark Glazer

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Ain’t No Future In Yo Frontin’ MC Breed and the DFC Harsh Times Soundtrack Lakeshore Records
Compared To What Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Closer To It! Varese Fontana
Make The Road By Walking Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Daptone Records
Bumpin’ On Sunset Brian Auger & The Trinity Bumpin’ On Sunset ATCO
The Volcano Song The Budos Band The Budos Band Daptone Records
Tired Of Fighting Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Daptone Records
Get Out Of My Life Woman Grasella Oliphant Grass Roots/Grass Is Greener Collectables
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Fred Astaire JFred Astaire’s Finest Hour Verve
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28 Responses

  1. Gulliver says:

    Martha! You astonish me! “When you’re lying awake with a dismal headache” (the show-stopper from the operetta IOLANTHE) describes, not a headache, but a sleepless night brought on by “love, unrequited.”

    On the other hand, why am I astonished? I guess it isn’t realistic to expect you to know everything. It should be sufficient for me that you know nearly everything.

  2. AndrewH says:

    I found the discussions about Ms. and Mrs. incredibly dull, and quite pointless. I was also surprised when I first learned women taking husband’s last names could be a point of contention. The matters were very clear to me when I was growing up in Taiwan. When referring to a couple, it’s simply calling them by one last name as in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, so one would know Mrs. Smith, the lady, is married to Mr. Smith, the man. When Mrs. Smith is referred to as an individual at work or otherwise, she would be called Ms. Crumpacker to show respect. Also, women would also refer to one another as Mrs., but that doesn’t mean those women have taken the troubles to get their names changed (as a matter of fact, most don’t at my mother’s generation). When I was young, I would call my friend’s mom something like Mother Smith, because I only knew my friend’s last name, and the lady was my friend’s mom. I was not about to ask a bunch questions regarding her last name before saying ‘Hi’ to her for the first time!! What is the big problem of having a practical custom for calling each other without causing a big ruckus?!

  3. poohbear72579 says:

    Great episode, guys… and with a surprising number of cliff-hangers. I think it’s the first episode I’ve heard in a long time where there were so many puzzling and unanswerable questions! Still, very interesting stuff.

    The fellow who called in to ask about the Spanish expression made me recall an old term that my family used to describe the same sort of individual referred to in the expression. Such a person was said to be “poor-mouthing”. In essence, this was a person who constantly complained about money but clearly had no lack of financial means. I’ve also heard it used to describe someone who complains a lot, in general, aside from financial matters. I think it’s a good term, too, because it’s so descriptive — this person is poor only in what they’re saying (i.e. speaking poorly of themselves).

  4. Cossette729 says:

    When the caller asked about the word “ookoosh,” I initially thought she was saying “couche-couche.” While I’ve only ever heard of this word being used for a Cajun breakfast food, it would make sense as a child’s word for a blankie because of the root word coucher (to put to bed). However, the only French “baby word” I’ve ever heard for blankie is “dodo.” Of course, that doesn’t mean the usage isn’t out there, only that I’ve never heard it.

  5. Jazyk says:

    Hello, I speak Czech and my wife is Czech and neither of us have never heard ookoosh. The standard Czech word for blanket is deka, from German Decke. What my wife did find on the Internet is UkuÅ¡ as a surname. I also know Polish and ookoosh doesn’t remind me of anything. I tried ukusz and ukuÅ› in this dictionary, fantastic by the way, and there were no hits.

  6. Jazyk says:

    I forgot to mention the standard Polish word for blanket is koc (pronounced kawts).

  7. elkaro says:

    An additional possibility for the “ookosh”/blankie inquiry –

    according to this site, UKUSH “means essence or heart in the Maya language Kach’iquel”

    http://ukush.com/

  8. scd817 says:

    In response to the question about U-turns, I can tell you that in Japanese it’s called U-turn (Uターン). It’s written with the letter U and then the english ‘turn’ is written in one of the phonetic alphabets. It’s a pretty safe bet that this word comes directly from English. In Japan they use the roman alphabet for a lot of things. It’s used right alongside the 2 alphabets and the Chinese characters.

  9. Randy says:

    My parents were born and raised in the Netherlands. Growing up our family had a few choice Dutch words that were substituted in for everyday objects. One was what I always heard as “kousey” for my silk trimmed blanket. When I grew up I learned that it was actually “kusje” or little kisses. I think, perhaps, it was because I was always sucking my thumb while holding my “kousey” to my cheek. I wonder if “ookoosh” may have a similar meaning in Czech. Perhaps the word was anglicized and it is not really “ookoosh”.

  10. belvedere64 says:

    One who can organize space efficiently or quickly can be referred to as “visual-spatial”. It is used as a state of being for people who are visual-spatial learners. We are all on a spectrum of learning abilities. Most rote learning is “sequential”. I think this is why PowerPoint slides or Excel Graphs can be clearer (or at least amore efficient use of ink) than words.

    http://graphjam.com/2008/08/31/song-chart-memes-ccr-lyrics/

  11. Blaine says:

    Is is possible that the word Camille was trying to remember was simply “stevedore”? She was trying to recall the word for a person who is very good at packing and she said the letter “v” was prominent in the word.

  12. jonathan says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    When you were small, did you have a favorite blanket? If so, what’d you call it? A woobie? A blankie? A listener says her grandmother called hers an ookoosh, and wonders if the word reflects grandma’s Czech roots.

    I am french canadian from Quebec City and I think I have the answer about that “ookoosh”

    Ookoosh may come from the french words houx (holly) and couches (baby crib bedding).

    Long time ago, people of Europe thought that holly had the power to keep bad things away, like thunder and demons. Unmarried women were strongly advised to hang a branch of holly on their bed so they wouldn’t be transformed into witches!

    Nowadays in French Canadian, we call it a doudou [doo-doo]. It refers to the soft texture of the blanket. Soft that we translate to doux in french. Looks pretty much like houx to me, doesn’t it?

  13. Halszka says:

    Polish linguist speaking ;P

    ookoosh is definitely nothing from Polish, as has been stated above “koc” is what we use to refer to a blanket,

    the word Martha called “szmata” (pronunced shma-tah) actually means “a piece of cloth used for cleaning”, and it has rather negative connotations. “Szmata” is something filthy, tattered, torn. It is most widely used as a vulgar term for a woman of “ill repute” or one particularly morally indecent woman. It can also be used to refer to a way of scoring a goal in soccer, whereby the player scoring kicks the ball in an exceptionally lousy manner (I’m talking like … a 10-year old with no training would normally catch it), but scores none the less, because the goal keeper’s performance is lousier still :)

  14. Halszka says:

    oh, and about talking late in life, I know there is a story in Japanese mythology about the son of one of the mythical emporors (Jibu I think was the name) who did not speak a word until he wasten, which aggravated the court greatly. Then, when he was ten he witnessed a flock of snow-white birds flying over the royal palace and spoke for the first time in his life, asking enthusiastically for the name of the creatures. Since then he started speaking again, and there was a temple built in honor of the miracle, where birds of white plumage would be sacrificed to the gods. That’s all I can remember, but I’m sure there was quite a bit more to it than that, maybe somebody can add some details :)

  15. Shelterdogg says:

    My sister called her blanket her “feel-feel.” (presumably for the silk she would rub with her fingers.

    As for Camille’s uncanny ability to visualize how the suitcases would fit in the car, I don’t know the word that starts with “V”, but how about “verisibagitude?”

  16. gacdg says:

    I know in German there is a word “Kuscheln”, which carries the idea of cuddling. For example, a teddy bear or other similar animal figure that a child would cuddle is called “Kuscheltier”. I don’t know if that could possibly be the root of Ookoosh (or Ukusch). I haven’t heard the word “Ukusch” used in German, but I suppose it could be dialect word, or a family word derived from the concept of Kuscheln, or cuddling. I would not be surprised if German words would get in to the vocabulary of someone of Czech and Polish descent, since much of what is now the Czech republic was part of the Austrian Empire (it was then known as Bohemia), and parts of what is now Poland used to be in Prussia. Grant, with your etimology skills, and access to reference works, maybe you could try tracing this lead and see if it takes you anywhere.

  17. Ken Mohnkern says:

    (I know how our hosts feel about Wikipedia, but…)

    The Wikipedia article on Pittsburghese needs a little help. It has this notice at the top: “To meet Wikipedia’s quality standards, this article needs redd up.”

  18. corinthian says:

    I finally got that “up a chimney down but not down a chimney up” riddle for the first time in my twenty-some years of life! I knew the answer was an umbrella, but I never quite got why until I actually stopped and thought about it. See, I refer to the two major states of the umbrella as “open” and “closed” not “up” and “down.” So it always kind of puzzled me, like “are they standing in a huge fireplace throwing the umbrella upwards? But then what does down mean?” So, yeah. Three cheers for stopping and thinking! And A Way With Words too, of course.

  19. Ron Draney says:

    For much the same reason, it took me a while to get

    Q: How do you get down off an elephant?
    A: You don’t; you get down off a duck.

    Probably didn’t help that my grandparents were fans of Ish Kabibble:

    Q: What’s the difference between a duck?
    A: One of his feet are both the same.

  20. johng423 says:

    What title to use when addressing a woman? There are practical considerations.

    When a middle school teacher I know got married, her students had trouble adjusting to her name change. They constantly twisted their tongues when trying to pronounce “Mrs. McMasters” and in frustration asked her, “Can we still just call you ‘Miss Wood’?”

  21. laager says:

    Blaine said:

    Is is possible that the word Camille was trying to remember was simply “stevedore”? She was trying to recall the word for a person who is very good at packing and she said the letter “v” was prominent in the word.


    Ditto. stevedore.
    Is our actual word ‘letter’ memory as unreliable as eye-witness memory?

  22. Dick says:

    When my son was very young, he called his blanket a rubbery. That threw me initially because there was no rubber connected with it. Then I realized he called it a rubbery because he liked to rub it.

  23. Halszka says:

    A probable update on “ookoosh” – I”ve just read a paper for my PhD research, which mentioned some emotion terms in a language called Gujarati.
    The words were transcribed roughly into roman characters, and 2 caught my eye: “khush” meaning “glad” and “nakhush” meaning “miserable”. I know the possibility that this is somehow related to the issues, but I thought I”d mention it. Might be a wild goose chase and a mere coincidence, but I can”t help the image of a little kid who becomes “nakhush” and is soothed by a lullaby and a warm blanket, and becomes in turn “khush” ^_^.

    I”m a dork and I”m lovin” it!

  24. Jackie says:

    Ken Mohnkern said:

    (I know how our hosts feel about Wikipedia, but…)

    The Wikipedia article on Pittsburghese needs a little help. It has this notice at the top: “To meet Wikipedia’s quality standards, this article needs redd up.”

    *snickers at Ken Mohnkern*  

     

    It took my college room mate (from Philly) a good part of freshman year to break me of the “need + past participle” habit.   I must admit, I still slip up now and again.  

  25. CheddarMelt says:

    I regularly have to ask my Yinzer husband to clarify what he just said. For example, a word that sounds like “will” could in fact be “will,” but it could also be “well” or “wheel.” He freaked me out when he told me he “left the dogs out.” (We didn’t have a fenced yard.) His response? “I left them back in.”

     

    So, question: If we move to Milwaukee, what’s the likelihood that the Northern Cities Shift will influence his pronunciation? Or is it too late for him to even hear the difference?

  26. Jackie says:

    I’d guess, too late.   I spent the first 40 years of my life in western PA.   Have lived in WI for almost 7 years.   Being out here has not changed my speech.   CheddarMelt, I’m assuming your husband is a Stillers fan and that yinz go dahntahn to shop for jumbo at GianIggle. *grin*

  27. jonathan says:

    “Ookoosh” sounds French to me.

    “Oo” could be “houx” as holly in English. For Christians, it means protection. Mary, Joseph and Jesus hid from King Herod’s soldiers in a bush of holly. Sometimes, people hang holly above a baby sleeping to protect him against spells.

    “Koosh” could be “couches”. Today it means diapers, but my grand-mother used it to talk about the blanket in which we cover/wrap the babies or young children.

  28. CheddarMelt says:

    Jackie said:

    I’d guess, too late.   I spent the first 40 years of my life in western PA.   Have lived in WI for almost 7 years.   Being out here has not changed my speech.   CheddarMelt, I’m assuming your husband is a Stillers fan and that yinz go dahntahn to shop for jumbo at GianIggle. *grin*

    Yeah, I have to redd up so’s I can meet my friends at the Eat ‘n Park in Scroll Hill. There’s food that needs eating.

     

    (Typing that made me a little sick to my stomach. I think I need a Sprecher.)

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