Is it cheating to say you’ve read a book if you only listened to it on tape? Over the centuries, the way we think about reading has changed a lot. There was a time, for example, when reading silently was considered strange. Plus, what do you call those soft rolls of dust that accumulate under the bed? Dust bunnies? Dust kitties? How about house moss? And the surprising backstory to every man’s favorite accessory—the cummerbund. Also: saucered and blowed, skinflint, sporty peppers, tips for proofreading, and the Great Chai Tea Debate.

This episode first aired March 21, 2014.

Download the MP3.

 “Reading” an Audiobook
Is it cheating to say you’ve read a book when you’ve really just listened to the audiobook?

 Chai Tea Redundancy
Chai tea is not redundant—just tasty. But that doesn’t stop people from debating the question.

 Traditional Southern Names
Long live Southern names! Classics like Henry Ritter Emma Ritter Dema Ritter Sweet Potatoe Creamatartar Caroline Bostick go way back, but the tradition is still alive and well.

 “Apps” Word Puzzle
Our Quiz Master John Chaneski could make a fortune with some of the Apps he’s created for this game.

 Original Use of Cummerbunds
If you thought cummerbunds served no purpose today, wait until you hear of their original use.

 Rage Quitters
Don’t be that kid who grows so frustrated with a neighborhood game that he takes the ball and storms home—you know, a rage-quitter.

 Evolution of Alphabets
Considering that the first alphabet goes back as far as 1600 BC, it’s pretty remarkable how little has changed. Robert Fradkin, a classics professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert Fradkin illustrates this point with helpful animations on his Evolution of Alphabets page.

 Authors Against Adjectives
Oh, adjectives. Sometimes you are indeed the banana peel of the parts of speech.

 Skinflint
Skinflint, meaning stingy or tight-fisted, comes from the idea that someone’s so frugal they would try to skin a piece of the extremely hard rock called flint.

 House Moss
You might refer to those soft rolls of dust that collect under your bed as dust bunnies, dust kitties, or woolies, but in the Deep South they’re sometimes called house moss.

 Nobel Prize Literature Translated to English
Chances are you’re not familiar with most of the books that win the Nobel Prize in literature because most of them aren’t translated into English. Fortunately, Words Without Borders is doing something about that.

 “Saucered and Blowed” Idiom
Saucered and blowed is an idiom meaning that a project is finished or preparations are complete, but it’s not that odd—Bill Clinton’s used it. It derives from the rustic practice of spilling boiling-hot coffee into a saucer and blowing on it to cool it down.

 Sport Pepper
What do you think the chances are that Sporty Spice has tried a sport pepper?

 Proofreading Tricks
Proofreading is a skill to be learned, but you can start with tricks like printing out the text, reading aloud, or moving down the page with a ruler, one line at a time.

 History of Reading Silently
As Alberto Manguel points out in his book A History of Reading, there was a time when reading silently was considered a strange habit.

 Susurrous
Susurrous, meaning “having a rustling sound,” derives from Latin susurrous, “whisper.”

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

Photo by Gabby Canonizado. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Cathedral Galt MacDermott Shapes of Rhythm / Woman Is Sweeter Kilmarnock
Walking Papers Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Bathtub Galt MacDermott Shapes of Rhythm / Woman Is Sweeter Kilmarnock
Alive In Dar-Es-Salaam Galt MacDermott Shapes of Rhythm / Woman Is Sweeter Kilmarnock
Spanish Nights Galt MacDermott Shapes of Rhythm / Woman Is Sweeter Kilmarnock
Moving Clothes Galt MacDermott Shapes of Rhythm / Woman Is Sweeter Kilmarnock
Crazy Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Radio Rock Galt MacDermott Shapes of Rhythm / Woman Is Sweeter Kilmarnock
I’m Through With You Galt MacDermott Shapes of Rhythm / Woman Is Sweeter Kilmarnock
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

Leave a Reply