On the menu: necessity mess, potato bargain, and other tasty regional foods that won’t break the bank. Plus, what’s a doomaflatchie? And what do you have to do before you rest on your laurels? Grant and Martha share idioms, proverbs, and paraprosdokians, those sayings that take a sudden, unexpected turn. Plus cryptic crosswords, graffiti slang, and new ways to read your the best long writing.
This episode first aired October 8, 2011. Listen here:
Download the MP3 here (23.8 MB).
Dining on a budget? Just whip up some necessity mess or a potato bargain. That’s a pork, onion, and potato stew popular in Eastern Massachusetts. Or how about some Georgia ice cream? It’s a North Florida term for grits. Martha shares a generous serving of fun food names from the Dictionary of American Regional English (on Twitter as @darewords).
If you’ve accomplished something, go ahead and rest on your laurels. Martha traces this idiom back to Ancient Greece, where victors were crowned with a wreath of bay leaves from the bay laurel tree. In the 16th Century, to retire on one’s laurels referred to “resting after an accomplishment.” Like many inherited idioms, it’s often said today with a tongue in one’s cheek.
The old Brooklyn Dodger Roy Campanella really knew how to set the soup outside! A baseball fan recalls this overheard phrase from a game in the 60s between the Cardinals and the Dodgers, when Campy smacked one over the fence. Grant speculates this usage of “soup” comes from the old slang term for nitrous oxide, a component in souping up cars. Over time, soup came to refer to any enhanced display of muscle or strength.
What would you bring to a pitch-in? An Indiana transplant shares this newly acquired term for a potluck dinner. Martha points out that the Dictionary of American Regional English has a map showing the distribution of the term, and it’s limited almost exclusively to Indiana.
If something’s a peach out of reach, it’s something lovely that you want but just can’t have. A listener shares this and other idioms from the American South.
Our Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a game of cryptic crossword clues called Double Definition. For example, if the clue is “trim a tree,” the answer is “spruce.” Or try this one: “crazy flying mammals.” Did you come up with “bats”?
What does it mean to grok the data? A listener from the medical device business wonders about the techie word “grok,” which first popped up in Robert Heinlein’s 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land.
To grok data means to understand all the information you’re looking at. Grant also mentions Jeff Prucher’s Brave New Words, a dictionary of science fiction terms that have made their way into the English language.
New York seems to have a doguero on every street corner. Grant shares this Spanglish term for “a hot dog vendor.”
What’s it called when saying becomes sayin’? It’s not a trick question; it’s simply called an abbreviation. Grant and Martha settle an English major’s confusion about the possibility of a trickier term. With words like “o’er,” a shortening of “over,” the apostrophe can also be called an apologetic apostrophe, but it’s still just an abbreviation.
The old Yiddish word bupkis, referring to something of little or no value, has of late been split up for dramatic effect. As in, that’s worth all of a bup and a kis!
What’s a doomaflatchie? A listener shares this alternate for doohickie, thingamajig, doodad, or any other one of those whatchamacalits.
If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong. Listeners share some of their favorite paraprosdokians. It’s not the first time Martha and Grant discussed paraprosdokians.
As ubiquitous as social media and blogs have become, people are still reading long form journalism! Grant shares some great ways Twitter has enabled the spread of long essays from sources like The Atlantic and Wired. In addition, services like Readability, Instapaper and Longreads have streamlined the distribution of articles to our myriad devices.
It takes some work for a writer to go all-city — a graffiti writer, that is. An art supplies dealer from Dallas shares some vocabulary from the world of street art. For example, the old act of photographing trains from benches gave birth to the term “benching,” and the act of tagging or doing graffiti is also known as “bombing.” Grant discusses the related term “going all-city“.
Everyone knows about Tang as that orange kick in a glass, but could it also be an entree? A listener from Plano, Texas, found an elderly relative’s plan for family meals from 1947, which lists “tang with molasses” as a main course. If you’ve heard of tang the food, shoot us a message.
If a meeting gets pushed back, does it get postponed to a later time or rescheduled for a sooner one? Grant explains that push back is generally understood to mean “reschedule for a later date,” but Martha recounts a scenario where the opposite definition caused a debacle with deadlines. As always, when in doubt, seek clarification.
Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. Thank you to our listeners for this and other modern proverbs.
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