Shadowdabbled. Moon-blanched. Augusttremulous. William Faulkner often used odd adjectives like these. But why? Grant and Martha discuss the poetic effects of compressed language. Also, African-American proverbs, classic children’s books, pore vs. pour, and the double meaning of the word sanction.

This episode first aired February 5, 2011.

Download the MP3.

 Classic Children’s Books
Amid the stacks of new titles at the library, Grant picks out The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame to read with his son. The hosts discuss the appeal of classic children’s books.

 Coast vs. Seaboard
A bi-coastal listener wonders about the terms West Coast and eastern seaboard. Why don’t we say Californians live on the western seaboard?

 Pore vs. Pour
Does an avid reader pore or pour over a book?

 African-American Proverbs
There is always a person greater or lesser than yourself. Grant shares this and other African-American proverbs.

 Twin Ends Word Game
Quiz Guy John Chaneski borrows a classic word game from Joseph Shipley called Twin Ends.

 That Smarts
The expression that smarts, meaning “that hurts,” dates back over a thousand years.

Does sanction mean “a penalty” or “an approval”? Well, both. Martha explains the nature of contranyms, also known as Janus words. Here’s an article about them in the periodical Verbatim.

 “What Would You Serve” from Listeners
Listeners share their suggestions for the game What Would You Serve? Hosting a golfer for dinner? Tea and greens should be lovely!

 Faulknerian Adjectives
William Faulkner used adjectives like shadowdabbled, Augusttremulous, and others that can only be described as, well, Faulknerian. Grant and Martha trade theories about why the great writer chose them. The University of Virginia has an online audio archive of Faulkner, recorded during his tenure as that school’s Writer-in-Residence. Also, check out this splendid 1956 Paris Review interview with Faulkner about the art of writing.

In a previous episode, we wondered how U-turn might translate in different languages. One listener explains that in Hebrew, drivers make a horseshoe or a hoof-turn.

 Amended Spellings from 1800s
The Century Dictionary contains a list of amended spellings from the late 1800s that only creates more of the confusion it set out to alleviate.

 We Appreciate Your Asking
Which is correct: “We appreciate your asking” or “We appreciate you’re asking”?

 Texas Talk
A new transplant to Dallas wants to assimilate into the Texan way of speaking without offending the locals or forcing any new vocabulary.

Ever hear a broadcast where the announcer enunciates a little too precisely? Grant and Martha discuss the effect of softening syllables, such as “prolly” for “probably,” and “wanna” for “want to.”

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

Photo by Donna Tomlinson. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Century Dictionary

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Hot Thursday Bei Bei and Shawn Lee Into The Wind Ubiquity Records
All Wrapped Up Melvin Sparks Akilah! Prestige Records, Inc.
Also Sprach Zarathustra Deodato Prelude CTI
Kiss The Sky Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra Voices and Choices Ubiquity Records
Italy 73 Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra Miles of Styles Ubiquity Records
Heavy Traffic Ray Shanklin Heavy Traffic Soundtrack Fantasy Records
September 13 Deodato Prelude CTI
Let Me Blow Your Mind Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra Hits The Hits Ubiquity Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Harry Connick Jr. When Harry Met Sally: Music From The Motion Picture Sony
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12 Responses

  1. Ricky Wilks says:

    Grant! I need your help!

    Over the last four years or so, I have begun hearing a pronunciation of a certain word that is driving me crazy. I’ve lived all over the country and had never heard it (or, possibly paid attention to it) until podcasts became a big part of my entertainment. I’ve now heard it from Texans, Washingtonians (?), Floridians, and, now, from you and I would like to know what’s going on.

    “Appreciate”; I was always under the impression that the “e” in the center was a long “e.” More and more I am hearing it pronounced as either an “i” or a short “e.” Is there some sort of unconscious divergence happening to differentiate between the monetary meaning (because I’ve never heard that meaning pronounced with the short “e”) and the use that means “grateful”?

    This doesn’t seem to be a regional thing because I’ve heard it from all corners of the country. I know this may seem trivial but please set my mind at ease so the hair on the back of my neck will stop standing up every time I hear this. Is it new? Has it always been around? Am I being silly?

  2. Ron Draney says:

    It’s been around at least since 1955 when Stan Freberg used it in his parody of “Yellow Rose of Texas”, apparently considering it iconic of a hard-core Texas accent. Mind you, Stan’s always had a bit of a tin ear when it comes to accents not his own.

  3. Ricky Wilks says:

    I tracked that down on youtube and hearing him shorten the word like that makes the changed vowel sound more palatable for some reason 🙂 Thanks for the reference. I guess it’s been around for a long time and I just never noticed it before.

  4. noah little says:

    As a freshly baked teacher of English as a foreign language, I’m really fascinated by the whole enunciation/pronunciation issue (and would gladly listen to you going on for hours about it). One of the hardest parts of learning any language, I think, is trying to understand all those sounds that run together in natural speech. Then if learners want their English to sound more natural they try to reproduce it too… yikes.

    I’ve begun to listen to these sounds more closely in order to teach learners that something like “uhmunna do this thing” is actually “I’m going to do this thing”. (By comparison “I’m gunna” is a piece of cake.

    Fascinating. Love the podcast, thanks for your great show.

  5. Glenn says:

    I’ve been noticing how my wife says “Member her?” She clips remember more than I do, down to simply “member.” I would more do more like either a syllabic r /rmember/ or a light vowel to start /ɪmember/, but in her speech it is simply “member.” I have noticed this even in a context where the remember is preceded by a vowel “I member that well.” In such a context, it would seem to me, the first syllable would have its best chance of leaving a trace.

    Keep in mind that my wife is well educated, and has credits toward a masters, so this is not an example of ignorance: it is simply a matter of dialect.

  6. Jonathan Moore says:

    Ron Draney said:

    It’s been around at least since 1955 when Stan Freberg used it in his parody of “Yellow Rose of Texas”, apparently considering it iconic of a hard-core Texas accent. Mind you, Stan’s always had a bit of a tin ear when it comes to accents not his own.

    I’ve seen a number of contractions of “appreciate” in Texas. I’ve never heard the one with the changed pronunciation of the first E, but here I’ve heard “‘preciate” and “pershiate”. Usually, I hear this used in short phrases, like “‘Preciate it.” or “Ah pershiate-cha.”

  7. Dennis Bowden says:

    Hi folks,

    When I heard your discussion of West Coast and Eastern Seaboard I thought of this song:
    In Oz I cannot recall hearing anyone refer to a seaboard on any coast.

    See ya

  8. turtleknits says:

    In New Hampshire, the place where the water meets the land is called the “seacoast” – I’ve never heard that anywhere else.

  9. Bill 5 says:

    I always assumed that the Eastern Seaboard and West Coast were differentiated by how and when they were populated, and thus how and when they were first referred to. Do you know what the year of first use was for each term? (Mirriam-Webster says 1781 for “seaboard”; don’t know if that is eastern or not.)

    The early Euro-Americans were confined to the land near the coast. Not to the coast itself, but to the region adjacent to the coast — the seaboard. Most settlers were in the seaboard; only the fisherman & dock workers were at the coast.

    On the other hand, the Spanish in California plied mostly along the coast (which is the same (costa) in Spanish (Latin “rib”)). Until gold was discovered, the western seaboard was largely empty of Euro-Americans except the coast.

    From the American perspective, they expanded westward, heading towards the coast, via trail and rail. They didn’t have any concern for getting to the seaboard — but everyone knew they were bounded by the coast. The setting sun from the coast is still in the California state seal.

    Its current usage, where NYC people fly to “the coast”, would be derivative from that, and survives in part because their own waterside is “the shore”.

    At least — that was always my assumption…

  10. Bill 5 says:

    Dennis Bowden said:

    Hi folks,
    When I heard your discussion of West Coast and Eastern Seaboard I thought of this song:
    In Oz I cannot recall hearing anyone refer to a seaboard on any coast.
    See ya

    What a great song, by a fellow of whom I’ve never heard! (And I love those 1970 shirts!)

    But the Highest Rated Comment happens to mis-quote the lyrics:
       If you think I’m happy your right
    (I THINK it must be mis-quoted, but it IS country music …)
    And “your” and “you’re” were about what I stopped to this particular forum to post.

    Considering “I appreciate [your/you’re] helping me,” it is NOT that either “your” or “you’re” is right. “Your helping” is not inherently the preferred expression. Rather, the two versions mean different things. If the author has written carefully, those who would castigate the author for using “you’re” are pedantically uncomprehending of the difference in denotation.

    In “I appreciate your helping me,” the object that is appreciated is the noun “helping”. “That” cannot be added before “your”, and it’s equivalent to “I appreciate your help.”
    In “I appreciate you’re helping me,” the object that is appreciated is “you”, and “helping” is a verb, not a noun. As Denise said, it would be clarified by adding “that” before your’re. [but I was taught by a manager, years ago, to remove all of my “that”s, with the verbal equivalent of ruler thwacks on the hand]

    Does the author appreciate the >helpingyouare< helping, rather than (once again) failing to help? The first one is the classic “your”. The other cases mandate “you’re”. On which word is the emphasis in the sentence?

    (When "I appreciate your willingness," it is unambiguously the noun willingness and thus the possessive your.)

  11. tx aggie c says:

    I always understood “A hard head leads to a soft behind” to mean that the hard headed get their behind softened with spanking.

  12. bookguy42 says:

    Re. Eastern Seaboard, West Coast

    I live in Eastern Canada (Ontario) and have never heard the term Eastern Seaboard used to refer to our East Coast. We use the terms East Coast or Atlantic Provinces or Maritime Provinces.


    On the other hand, we do use West Coast to refer to British Columbia, e.g. In May I plan to visit my brother, sister-in-law and niece on the West Coast. I could then be more specific and give a location in British Columbia.