For language lovers, it’s like New Year’s, Fourth of July, and the Super Bowl all rolled into one: The brand-new online edition of the Dictionary of American Regional English. Martha and Grant explain what all the fuss is about. Plus, the debate over that meal in a glass container: some call it a hot dish, while others say it’s a casserole. And just when did we start using the terms boyfriend and girlfriend? Also in this episode: painters and artists, vaping, chamber pots, the lucky phrase rabbit, rabbit, and a news quiz in limericks!
This episode first aired January 25, 2014.
Language lovers, rejoice! The Dictionary of American Regional English is now available online. This massive collection of regional words and phrases across the United States requires a subscription, but 100 sample entries, including sound recordings, are available for browsing.
What do you call it when a cop is on the road so everyone slows down? A Tallahassee, Florida, listener suggests the term cop clot.
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but beware the catfish when trawling online. To catfish, from the 2010 documentary of the same name, has come to mean misrepresenting yourself online or instigating a hoax of a relationship.
The terms boyfriend and girlfriend came into common use in the late 1800’s.
Why do we say get out of my bathtub when we’re in sync on a playground swing with the person next to us? Listeners suggest that maybe it’s because you’re swinging “in sink.”
If you’ve kept up with the news these past few months, you’re all set for John Chaneski’s News Limerick Challenge.
Is there a difference between a hotdish (or hot dish) and a casserole? Here’s the science: hotdish can refer to the same thing as a casserole, but not every casserole is a hotdish.
Bae, as in baby, came into vogue via the bae caught me slippin meme-a selfie that’s meant to look as if one’s sweetheart actually snapped the picture.
Would you call an artist who paints a painter, or does painter only apply to a technician, like one who paints houses?
Kurt Vonnegut on scathing book reviews: “Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”
Among some speakers of English, saying rabbit, rabbit before saying anything else on the first morning of the first day of the month supposedly ensures good luck for the next four weeks. Other versions of this superstition include saying white rabbits and just rabbits. If you forget and say something else before you say the magic phrase, you can always reverse your luck by saying tibbar, tibbar (rabbit, rabbit spelled backwards) just before going to bed that night.
Thanks to the fatberg-a 15-ton blob of fat and grease found in a London sewer-the -berg suffix lives on.
The Dictionary of American Regional English offers these alternative words for doughnut: friedcake, twister, floater, sinker, finger, and chokerhole.
Not bad-which, like many phrases, sounds cool when you say it with an English accent-is an example of litotes, or an understatement used for effect.
The Dictionary of American Regional English has many terms for practical jokes played on newbies, like sending someone out for a bucket of steam, or for pigeon milk, or for a nickel’s worth of dimes.
The small of the back—the part of one’s lower back where the spine curves in—is so called because it’s the narrowest point. When Vladimir Nabokov wrote about that in English, he borrowed the sexy French word ensellure.
White owl, whispering kettle and slop jar are all dialectal terms for the chamber pot, the container kept under the bed before indoor plumbing became common.
In the American South, a sirsee, also spelled sursie, sussie, surcy, or circe, is a small, impromptu gift. The term may derive from word surprise.
Vape, meaning “to smoke an electronic cigarette,” is among the entries in Grant’s tenth annual Words of the Year List for The New York Times.
Photo by Robobobobo. Used under a Creative Commons license.