Bathroom walls, missing graffiti, and social media. Where have all the cute quips on bathroom stalls gone?  We wonder about the apparent decline of restroom graffiti. Are people saving their witticisms for Twitter and Facebook?  And: If there were a universal law named in your honor, what would it be? Martha says in her case, “Barnette’s Law” would be “The lane you just got out of is the one that ends up going faster.”  Always.  Finally: Andre the Giant fancies a cocktail called “The American.” The recipe? Fill a 40-ounce pitcher with various liquors, then stir. Eeeeuww! Plus, using Master vs. Mister in correspondence, how fixin’ to became finna, the meaning of derp, and what happens when you take a forest bath in Japan.

This episode first aired October 31, 2014.

Download the MP3.

 Eponymous Laws
An eponymous law is a joking bit of wisdom named after someone, like Murphy’s Law, which states “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

 Social Media Replacing Graffiti
Amid the rise of social media oversharing, you’ll notice at least one peculiar change: people don’t seem to write on the walls of public restrooms anymore. But if you’re in search of some good old fashioned bathroom stall graffiti, we recommend checking out Allen Walker Read’s Classic American Graffiti.

 Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s Law
Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s Law should be familiar to anyone who’s ever been assigned a minor task and a long weekend to get it done— “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

 Slang “Finna”
Finna, a slang variant of “fixing to,” meaning “to be about to do something,” has been widely distributed through hip-hop lyrics. Its formation is similar to gonna, from “going to.”

 Cole’s Law
Speaking of eponymous laws, do you know what Cole’s Law is? (Hint: You might order it as a side dish with your fish and fries.)

 Day Planner Quiz
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski went through his day planner to combine activities with the abbreviations of days and months. For example, when it’s a relief after a long week just to get in bed, you’re talking about Satin.

 Proper Noun Possessives
There’s no definite rule for putting the apostrophe “s” after names like Liz or Alex when talking about Liz’s wedding or Alex’s school, but we know for certain that most people say, and write out, the possessive “s.”

 Herblock’s Law
Herblock’s Law is a bummer for anyone who, like Grant, loved the socks sold at The Gap fifteen years ago: “If it’s good, they’ll stop making it.”

 Cut Off the Nose to Spite the Face
The idiom “to cut off your nose to spite your face” has been attributed to a Medieval nun who described women cutting off their noses to look unattractive and thus preserve their chastity. Whether that story is true, cutting off someone’s nose was a pretty common form of punishment back then. The gist of that saying also appears in Henri IV’s statement about “burning Paris to save Paris.”

 Andre the Giant’s Drink
We’ve spoken on the show about the suicide drink— that thing where you mix everything at the soda fountain into one cup. And we’ve also covered the Matt Dillon, when a bartender pours whatever’s in the bar mat into a cocktail glass. But the actor Cary Elwes recently revealed that Andre the Giant fancies a drink called The American, which consists of 40 ounces of various liquors all in one pitcher.

 Master vs. Mister
If you’re into the manners and customs of correspondence, don’t forget that a boy under the age of about 12 is referred to as a Master, and a man over the age of 18 is a Mister. It goes back to the time of guild workers.

 Betteridge’s Law of Headlines
Does Betteridge’s Law of Headlines Make Us Look Fat? No. But it is the eponymous law that states, “If it ends in a question, the answer is ‘no.'”

 Euphemisms to Show Sympathy
We’ve talked on the show before about the language of grief and the use of euphemisms like, “I’m sorry for your loss,” or, passed away. A retired Middlebury College history professor wrote us to say that it’s all very well to be against euphemisms, but you also have to be respectful of other people’s feelings.

 The Many Meanings of Hootenanny
A hootenanny, commonly thought of as a party in Appalachia, is also a term for German pancakes. But when you look in the Dictionary of American Regional English, you’ll notice that hootenanny is synonymous with doohickey or thingamajig, and can refer to, among other things, a sleigh, something to sharpen shears, or an imaginary object.

 Segal’s Law
Segal’s Law states, “A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.”

 In a Car vs. On a Train
It’s largely because of the way we feel while riding in a car or on a train that we use the prepositions in a car and on a train.

Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for walking around in the woods that literally means “a forest bath” is a beautiful descriptor for what a hike should be—an opportunity to stroll through nature and wash off the stress of everyday life.

Many kids are saying derp in place of duh, and the phenomenon is largely due to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s use of the term in their movie Baseketball and their television show South Park.

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

Photo by Liz West. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Classic American Graffiti by Allan Walker Read
Dictionary of American Regional English by Frederic Gomes Cassidy

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Tropicoso Jungle Fire Tropicoso Nacional
Culebro Jungle Fire Tropicoso Nacional
Lady, You Look Good To Me Galt MacDermot Shapes of Rhythm Kilmarnock
Village Hustle Jungle Fire Tropicoso Nacional
Snake Pit Jungle Fire Tropicoso Nacional
Morning Fly The New Mastersounds Therapy One Note Records
Coffee Cold Galt MacDermot Shapes of Rhythm Kilmarnock
Monday Meters The New Mastersounds Therapy One Note Records
When It Rains The New Mastersounds Therapy One Note Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

4 Responses

  1. deaconB says:

    What’s the difference between “The American” and a”Hairy Buffalo”?  Seems like we had a punch bowl of HB at every party in the ’60s.

    Or maybe nobody makes HB anymore for lack of a punch bowl. Used to be, everybody had a Chip ‘n’ Dip set, but I don’t see them in stores anymore.  Haven’t even seen on at a garage sale since the ’80s.  Herblock’s law?  

    Mama always said that if you have a complaint, going to the company president will give you good results, but going to the guy on the bottom of the organization table would only result in frustration, because the only way they can be important is to say “no”.  She called it Clerk’s Law, crediting James Clerk Maxwell: the less authority someone has, the more they exert it.  But Mama invented it herself.

    Dave’s Law is “the more times you press the button,the longer the elevator takes to arrive”.

    Cathy originally comes from West Virginia,and we used o tease her about having one leg longer so she could stand uptight on a mountain.  Her response was Cathy’s Law:  Nature always compensates.  People born with one leg that is shorter invariably are born with the other leg longer.

    I have more an observation than a law.  “In their first decade, they are human.  In the second decade, they become female.  In their 20s, they grow into adults.  In their 30s, they become full-fledged women.  In their 40s, they become sex goddesses.  And in their 50s, they become widows.  Nobody has ever explained why all these men are dying of heart attacks in bed, but I do note that many men trade in their wives for younger, less demanding, women.”

  2. hippogriff says:

    Cardwell’s Law of Voluntary Associations: “Who will work, gets overworked”. Not to be confused with Cardwell’s phenomenon: “Two-way traffic always meets at the narrowest point”, which can be shown mathematically with Reynold’s numbers and similar proof beyond simple observation.

    Parkinson had a second law: “Increase in expenditures results from increase in funding, which is assumed limitless.”
    This has produced any number of corollary laws such as widening a highway will attract more traffic to fill it.

    “burning Paris”: “Destroy a village to save it” was quite commonly said in the Viet Nam war.

    Death euphemisms: It has been claimed that such a discussion was the basis for the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” sketch.

    Hootenanny is a jam session by folk singers. A variant is filk or filking. This involves songs, typically using folk tunes, but humorous words, originally about science fiction, fantasy, or other fannish subjects. The term came from a typo in a convention program which promised “filk singing”. Since there was no existing term for this art form, filk was quickly adopted. As for hootenanny = party, hoot is a common southern term for a good time.

  3. Dick says:

    Inre “cut off your nose to spite your face.”  When I was young Baker’s Best Hair Tonic had a lot of ads on the radio.  One of them talked about other products and how bad they were for your hair.  They finished this with, “That’s like burning down the barn to get rid of the rats.”  My young mind always pictured somebody with their hair on fire.  This discussion brought that memory back.

  4. Gregg Cook says:

    To me what was described as German Pancakes sounds like what has been served to me as Dutch Babies.

    This isn’t a law, but a noun.  When you are at the airport the farthest gate from where you are at any time is called the Rosario Gate.  It is named after my husband Victor Rosario and is almost always the gate that I need to get to.  Usually with a short amount of time between flights.

    Loss and Death.  To me, telling someone “I’m sorry for your loss” when someone close to them has died is fine.  You are recognizing that person’s feelings of loss of a loved one.  And I would say that that loved one has died.  You can’t say “I’m sorry for your death.”