Hyperbolic Headlines Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity!!!! Or maybe not. You’ve seen those breathless headlines on the internet, like “You Won’t Believe What This 7-year-old Said to The President!” They’re supposed to lure you to another webpage–but now there’s a backlash against such clickbait. Plus, the most beautiful word in the Icelandic language. And if being disgruntled means you’re annoyed, does being gruntled mean you’re happy? Plus, gleeking, balloon juice, belly stretchers, scared vs. afraid, peruse, belting out a song, acknowledging the corn, To Whom It May Concern, and that awkward silence in elevators.

This episode first aired February 14, 2014.

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 The Most Beautiful Icelandic Word
In Icelandic, the term for “midwife” literally translates as “light mother.” Icelanders voted it the most beautiful word in their language. Similarly, in Spanish, the phrase for “give birth,” dar a luz, translates literally as “give to light.”

 Gleek
Gleek doesn’t just mean “a fan of the TV show Glee.” It’s also a verb meaning to shoot a stream of saliva out from under your tongue.

 Words Without Antonyms
Disgruntled means “unhappy,” and gruntled means the opposite, although you almost never hear the latter. Playing with such unpaired words can be irresistible, whether you’re a poet or an essayist for The New Yorker.

 Balloon Juice
A century or so ago, balloon juice was college slang for “empty talk.”

 Scared vs. Afraid
An Indianapolis caller wonders if there’s any difference in meaning between the words scared and afraid.

 Fowl Pun
Why did the chicken cross the basketball court? Spoiler alert: the answer is a groaner.

 Last Syllable Word Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle involving expressions that pair famous people with the last syllables of their names. For example, what kind of drinking vessel might a mustachioed genius named Albert use?

 Conflicting Meanings of “Peruse”
The word peruse is such a confusing term that it’s best to avoid it entirely. Some English speakers were taught it means “to read casually,” while others were taught exactly the opposite.

 Belly Stretchers
If you take a job at an airline, beware if your new co-workers ask you go find them a belly stretcher—they’re playing a practical joke on you.

 Elevator Silence
The elevator doors close, and there’s that awkward silence while you and your fellow passengers wait for the doors to reopen. Is there a word for that silence?

 Confess the Corn
To confess the corn or acknowledge the corn is to admit that you are, or were, drunk.

 Style Guide Echo Chamber
A former copydesk chief points out the circular nature of dictionaries using citations from newspapers that in turn consult dictionaries and the AP Styleguide for questions of usage.

 Lunch Hook
A lunch hook, in college slang from a century ago, meant “a hand”–as in, “I’m going to hook my finger through this doughnut hole.”

 Hyperbolic Headlines
We’re so jaded by the clickbait titles directing us to sites like Upworthy that the site Downworthy is doing something about it. And imagine what it’d be like if serious literature got the same treatment.

 Origin of Musical Verb “Belt”
To belt out a song onstage probably derives from the idea of belting your opponent in the boxing ring.

 Capitalization in Formal Addresses
There’s no hard-set rule about whether to capitalize the phrase To Whom It May Concern, though it may also be worth figuring out who you’re addressing, and writing to them instead.

 Pensum
Did your teacher ever make you write a sentence over and over as punishment? That task is called a pensum.

 Marryoke
Wedding guests lip-sync to a song which is later set to music in the wedding video, forming a word combining marriage and karaoke: marryoke.

 Freeze Your Caboogies Off
A Somerville, Massachusetts, listener wonders about a phrase her family uses, freeze your caboogies off. Its origin is unknown, and it’s unclear whether it’s related to another term for the backside, bahookie.

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

Photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

AP Stylebook Online by Associated Press

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
The Traitor Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Montego Sunset Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Make The Road By Walking Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Super Strut Deodato The Roots of Acid Jazz Sony
The Contender Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Tired of Fighting Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Birds Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Sideman Lonnie Smith The Roots of Acid Jazz Sony
Karina Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Home Again Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking Dunham Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

2 Responses

  1. deaconB says:

    Scared vs afraid:

    In the 1950s in NW Ohio, one was taught to write “His surname was spelt Isaacs but on his mail, it might be spelled Issacs, Isaccs, Izacks or Izax“, but these days, the word spelled has almost entirely supplanted spelt.

    The word afeard, though, still persists, although with a difference.  If a kid says “afeard”, most teachers will correct the child, while if someone uses spelt, the teacher is likely to ignore that.

    Perhaps it’s because Shakespeare used afeard?  An ngram search shows that afeard was only ever used in printed english in shakespearean times, and afraid has always been more popular.  Shakespeasr was quite enamored of the word, using it in such works as A Pleasant Conceited Comedie Called, Loues Labors Lost: Much Adoe about Nothing: A Midsommer Nights Dreame: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet:  (I like those original titles much more than today’s shortened versions.

     

    Pensum

    Thisw word isn’t in American Heritage, but Merriam-Webster says:

    Origiof PENSUM

    New Latin, from Latin, duty, charge, something weighed out, from neuter of pensus, past participle of pendere to weigh, estimate, pay

    and of pensive, it says:

    Middle English pensif, from Anglo-French, from penser to think, from Latin pensare to ponder, frequentative of pendere to weigh — more at pendant

    I would think that thew punishment might make one think, but it seems there is no connection, llexicographically.  Rats!

  2. Robert says:

    Gruntled sounds like an agitated sound, like grumble, growl,  so disgruntled sounds to me like  of  someone or some animal tranquilized.

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