If someone offered you a croaker with an old man’s face, would you accept? You should! Croaker is a slang term for a hundred dollar bill. Did you ever wonder why we turn up the air conditioning to bring the temperature down? Plus, the tricky debate over me vs. I, the byzantine story behind the word byzantine, whether paper toweling is a real noun, and a couple of name games. Also, Grant recommends some dictionaries and teaching guides for the new school year.

This episode first aired September 24, 2011.

Download the MP3.

 Positive Aptronyms
Ever know somebody whose name makes you do a double-take, like a family physician named Dr. Hurt? An Albany, N.Y. listener shares a game of more positive aptronyms. For example, what do you name your daughter if you want her to be a lawyer? How about “Sue”?

 Paper Towelling
Do you use paper towels or paper towelling? While a listener insists her husband’s wrong for his use of paper towelling, Grant explains how certain nouns take a gerund ending. For example, clothes derive from clothing, and the side of a house adorns siding. In the same way, why not tear a paper towel off a roll of paper towelling?

 Sesquipedalian Language
A veteran broadcaster recalls a brilliant example of sesquipedalian language. Fifty years ago, he stubbed his foot on the beach and a group of college boys told him to go to his parents and get an anatomical juxtaposition of the orbicular ors muscles in the state of contraction on the unilateral calcification of the carbuncular metatarsal. Go get, in other words, “a kiss on the foot.”

 The Odd Man Out Game
Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a Grant and Martha version of The Odd Man Out Game, wherein one term doesn’t belong in the list of four. Take Martha, Irving, Denzel, and Booker. Which one doesn’t fit? It’s Irving, because “Washington” is his first name, not his last.

 Turn Up The AC
Does turning up the A.C. make a room cooler or warmer? A listener grapples with multiple meanings of the word “up.” Martha suggests saying, “Turn up the air conditioning,” not “turn up the air conditioner,” just as you say “turn up the heat,” not “turn up the heater.” Grant observes that the English language is imperfect, and we often have to clarify our statements to make sure people understand us.

 Suggestions to Avoid Malapropisms
When it comes to proper grammar, “Where you at?” ain’t where it’s at. A mother is concerned that her child will pick up such malapropisms as “Where you at?” and “My mother and me went to the store.” Grant argues that the redundant “at” has become such a part of our colloquial speech that it isn’t to be chided in informal usage. However, for those formative years of language learning, Grant recommends the book Learner English by Michael Swan.

 Bank-Teller Babies
What do you name your baby if you want her to become a bank teller? “Penny.” And if it’s a boy? Try “Bill.”

 Croakers
If someone offered you a croaker with an old man’s face, would you take it? Here’s a hint: the face belongs to Benjamin Franklin. A Louisiana native shares this rare term for a hundred dollar bill. Grant suspects that it may derive from the French verb croquer, meaning “to be crisp.” It’s mostly used in informal settings, such as horse tracks and neighbor-to-neighbor transactions. What terms do you use for the Benjamins?

 Grant’s Dictionary Recommendations
If you’re looking for dictionary recommendations, you’ve tuned to the right program! For comprehensive, desk-dwelling dictionaries, Grant likes the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th Edition, a two-volume set, and the brand-new American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, which contains original etymologies, illustrations, and plenty of guides and charts. The latter publication took nearly ten years to complete, and its authority is worth the investment.

 The “Me vs. I” Squabble
When a minister asked, “Who gives this woman to be married?” the father regrettably answered, “Her mother and me.” Well, he regretted it after his daughters ribbed him about his improper grammar, specifically, his disregard for the implied verb. As in, “My wife and I do give this young woman to be married.” Grant and Martha confirm that the implied verb is indeed what seals the deal. Alas, the “me vs. I” squabbles continue!

 Origin of the Term Byzantine
A physician heard a broadcaster use the term byzantine to describe the current health care system, and wonders about the origin of this adjective. Martha notes that the Byzantine Empire, which began in the 4th century A.D., was notable for its convoluted system of government officials and titled nobility. Additionally, Byzantine art is known for its intricacies and elaborate details. Thus, the word has come to refer to anything exceptionally complicated or intricate.

 Ophthalmologist Baby Name
What do you name a future ophthalmologist? “Iris”!

 Following Your Spouse
If a married couple moves because one spouse is relocated for work, is it correct to say the other spouse is following them? A listener wonders about the implications of the term “follow,” and how that dynamic works in today’s day and age. Married couples often view themselves as a team of two equals, and sometimes words like “follow” can connote unintended ideas of subservience. Grant and Martha point out that, as relationship dynamics change, so does our language.

 Statistician Baby Name
If you’d like your son to become a statistician, Martha suggests naming him “Norm”!

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

Photo by Wonderlane. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Learner English by Michael Swan
Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th Edition
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition

Music Used in the Broadcast

Theme From Enter The Dragon Dennis Coffey Theme From Enter The Dragon Sussex
Rock Island Rocket Tom Scott and The LA Express Tom Cat Ode Records
Funky Miracle The Meters Look-Ka Py Py Rhino Records
Soul Dressing Booker T and The MG’s Soul Dressing Stax
Tom Cat Tom Scott and The LA Express Tom Cat Ode Records
Valez In The Country The Nite-Liters A-Nal-Y-Sis BBR
Itchy Brother The Nite-Liters A-Nal-Y-Sis BBR
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
Tagged with →  

25 Responses

  1. EmmettRedd says:

    The site about money nicknames does not mention two bits for a quarter.

    It also mentions that Canada is going to bring out a 2-dollar coin. When I visited 6 or 8 years ago, they were already out. I heard they were called twonie (which relates the Warner Brothers title).

    Emmett

  2. Ron Draney says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    What do you name a future ophthalmologist? “Iris”!


    I’ve got this colony of feral cats that use my patio as a dormitory. Iris is the name I use to refer to the one tri-color calico among the regulars. (I can’t be the only person who’s heard calicos referred to as “hairy rainbows”.)

    Two of the others, littermates, I call McDonnell and Douglas. They’re both jet black.

  3. Heimhenge says:

    A friend had an adopted cat with 3 legs. Found it injured on her porch. Looked like it had tangled with a car. She named the cat Peg.

    Later, when she called the vet to schedule a declawing, they quoted her $100. She asked “So that’s $25 per foot, huh?” They replied, “Well, we don’t really figure it that way, since most people get all 4 done at the same time.” When she explained Peg’s situation, they were OK with $75.

  4. EmmettRedd says:

    Shouldn’t the topic title be “He and I or Him and Me? (full episode)”? :-)

    Emmett

  5. jcmac says:

    I have just recently discovered your program and I am thoroughly enjoying listening to it. I, too, grew up hearing the phrase “stick that in your pipe and smoke it”. I also remember hearing my grandfather quite often exclaim “what in the Sam Hill thunder?”. He would use this as if to say “what is that?” or “what is going on here?”. Anyway, I am really enjoying your podcasts and look forward to catching up on your past shows. Good day!

  6. tromboniator says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    Do you use paper towels or paper towelling? While a listener insists her husband’s wrong for his use of paper towelling, Grant explains how certain nouns take a gerund ending. For example, clothes derive from clothing, and the side of a house adorns siding. In the same way, why not tear a paper towel off a roll of paper towelling?


    I use paper towels, which are made of paper toweling (I think I’d use one l). Just to complicate my life, and to send me into an absolute frenzy, my wife asks me, “Will you please hand me a paper toweling?”

    Also, I would say that siding adorns the side of a house, rather than the other way around.

  7. Gemma says:

    I was surprised by your discussion of paper towelling. Don’t you call the fabric that bath towels and bath robes are made out of “towelling?” That’s normal to me (in the UK). It’s also the first definition of towelling/toweling in the OED (four quotations: 1582-1880).

    A little bit of searching online reminded me that I also know this fabric by the name terry-towelling, which I discover can also be called terrycloth or terry. I’m assuming that you use a non-towelling name like this, or else the use of “paper towelling” wouldn’t have seemed so alien to Martha.

    All that said…. I’ve never heard someone refer to “paper towelling” before, and I wouldn’t be inclined to ask for a roll of paper towels with “pass me the paper towelling, would you?” I mostly use it in the kitchen anyway, where we dodge this question because it’s called “kitchen roll.”

  8. jdimm says:

    Grant, I thought you were going somewhere else with the croaker etymology. The French word “croquer” doesn’t mean crisp, like a crisp $100 bill. You must be thinking of “croqant”. “Croquer” is a verb that means “to bite down on something crunchy”. For example, you might tell a child not to croque a piece of hard candy. Chewable vitamins are “a croquer”. Back in the day in New Orleans, you would test a gold coin by biting down on it — it’s real if teeth marks show in the soft metal. My suggestion, probably no more true than yours but more satisfying, is that a croaker was originally a coin valuable enough to bite down on. It’s true that “mordre” is more correct for biting down on a gold coin, and croquer implies that you are going to chew and swallow what you croque, but croquer could have been a clever way of referring to the bite test. The closest current equivalent to a gold coin is a $100 bill, crisp or not.

  9. jdimm says:

    I have a suggestion for a quiz that might be called “lost in translation”: the use or misuse of English expressions in other languages. Sometimes borrowed expressions are incorporated with their correct meaning. “Weekend” and “hot dog” mean the same thing in French. The meaning of other words has been changed in unexpected ways. Some examples from colloquial French:

    smoking
    people
    sweet
    tennis
    jogging
    parking

    Often the confusion happens because the English expression is subjected to French grammatical rules. Adjectives follow nouns in French, and when they shorten a phrase by reducing it to the noun, the French will end up picking the English adjective instead of the noun.

    Hints:

    It was a gala event, all the women wore evening gowns and the men were in “smoking”.
    We were excited to go to a restaurant that was so “people”.
    Mom felt a chill so she told the kids to put on their “sweets”.
    I wanted to play but forgot to bring my “tennis”.
    She committed the ultimate faux pas — going to the boulangerie in her “jogging”.
    Don’t worry, there’s a “parking” close to the theater.

    There must be lots of good examples in other languages.

  10. jdimm says:

    I haven’t heard you guys weigh in on the controversy about Cindarella’s glass slipper. Did Perrault mistakenly write “verre” (glass) when he meant its homophone “vaire” (an heraldic fur formed by a regular tesellation of blue and white bell shapes)? Glass would be an uncomfortable material for a slipper. Of course, it is a fantasy, so anything is possible, but there’s nothing else in the story that mentions how hard and heavy they would be, not to mention the fact that they would probably shatter when you tried to dance while wearing them.

  11. turtleknits says:

    I really liked Martha’s little ditty about today and I’d love to memorize it to confound my kids. I’m not sure I transcribed it correctly, however:

    Today was tomorrow yesterday
    But today is today today
    just as yesterday was today yesterday
    but yesterday today and tomorrow
    will be today tomorrow
    which makes today yesterday and tomorrow all at once

    Am I missing some punctuation which would make it correct?

  12. Ron Draney says:

    turtleknits said:

    I really liked Martha’s little ditty about today and I’d love to memorize it to confound my kids. I’m not sure I transcribed it correctly, however:

    Today was tomorrow yesterday
    But today is today today
    just as yesterday was today yesterday
    but yesterday today and tomorrow
    will be today tomorrow
    which makes today yesterday and tomorrow all at once

    Am I missing some punctuation which would make it correct?


    A few quotation marks and a little jiggering of the line breaks might help, as would some implied explanations:

    [What is now] “Today” was [called] “Tomorrow”–yesterday.
    But [what is now] “Today” is [called] “Today”–today.
    Just as [what is now] “Yesterday” was [called] “Today”–yesterday.
    But [it’s now called] “Yesterday”–today.
    And [what is now] “Tomorrow” will be [called] “Today”–tomorrow.
    Which makes [what is currently] “Today” [what will be called] “Yesterday” [tomorrow]
    and [what was called] “Tomorrow” [yesterday], all at once.

  13. Billie Dawn says:

    In the area of aptronyms, I had a typing teacher named Miss Speed (truly) and a friend had a driver’s education teacher named Mr. Carr.

  14. turtleknits says:

    Thank you, Ron!

  15. Glenn says:

    While I agree with the answer given on air, “Her mother and I,” I have great sympathy for the father of the bride.

    I suspect nearly all would answer the “Her mother and I” question differently if her mother were not in conjunction. This, I think, recreates the rationale of the caller: he said he pulled out the conjoined pronoun to see what sounds right in isolation. This was his tragic downfall. The isolation technique works well EXCEPT when the result is a one-word sentence. In this case, I think we all would use the disjunctive form of the pronoun, me, where we would otherwise use the simple subjective form, I..

    For example, we would say:
    “Who gives this woman to be married?”
    “Me.”

    and not

    “Who gives this woman to be married?”
    *”I.”

    In most formal settings, I would prefer to add the substitute verb do. When you add the substitute verb, the need to use the disjunctive me vanishes, along with the quandary.

    The disjunctive form of the pronoun can be found in several circumstances where the pronoun is emphatic: “Others may fail, but me, I will succeed.” I believe it is this disjunctive use, or its rejection, that lies at the root of such controversies as “It is me” vs. “It is I” and “taller than me” vs. “taller than I”. Those who dismiss these uses of me as merely illiterate use of the objective form are setting up a straw man, easily toppled, rather than appreciating the richness of the question it raises.

  16. jmercermn says:

    Rather than just “Turn up the A.C.” which leaves the question as to what is being raised, we frequently use “Crank up the A.C.” which has more of a mechanical connotation, and refers to the machinery performing the air conditioning and not just the setting on the thermostat.

  17. dhenderson says:

    In re: aptronyms, the discussion reminded me of the best name for a woman with one leg a bit shorter than the other: Eileen. Unless, of course, she’s Japanese, in which case it would be Irene. :-)

  18. wagnerpaulj says:

    => What do you name your baby if you want her to become a bank teller? “Penny.” And if it’s a boy? Try “Bill.”

    I have to admit that my first guess was “Rob”.

  19. ishmael says:

    I was raised in the Old South, where boys hunted bullfrogs (croakers)  at night, using a frog gig and a bright light. When one gigged a frog/croaker, it was placed in a “croaker sack” to be carried home for some fine dining at the expense of the croaker’s muscular lower extremities.

  20. paul says:

    About croaker for $100 — When I was in High School (mid-70s, DC suburbs), we sometimes called all paper money “frogs” when we were trying to be cool — I’m pretty sure the idea was that, 1) they are green 2) there usually aren’t as many in one’s pocket as one remembered, leading us to believe they could hop out by themselves.

     

    It seems like an easy jump from “U.S. Dollar” = “greenback” and a “croaker” has a green back.

  21. RobertB says:

    Glenn said:

    The disjunctive form of the pronoun can be found in several circumstances where the pronoun is emphatic: “Others may fail, but me, I will succeed.”

    Then this famous expression, meant to be silly, is defensible after all: ‘me, Tarzan, you, Jane’

  22. hippogriff says:

    I haven’t found any first words between Tarzan and Jane, but considering his time with Belgian missionaries, I would suppose it was, “Bon jour, Mademoiselle Porter.” If not in English. It definitely wasn’t “Me Tarzan, you Jane” and her name was not Parker. Movies rarely get anything right!

     

    Aptronyms: In my parents’ time (early 1930s) there was a biology professor at SMU named Longnecker, and for a time, he lived on Lover’s Lane. Rumor was that snickers over the name and address was partly responsible for the move. I had a course there in abnormal psychology under John Strange. His text book on the subject (published while I was taking the course) appeared on I Love Lucy and most viewers thought it was just a sight gag.  

  23. Heimhenge says:

    I know I posted this in some other thread awhile ago, but the topic of aptronyms seems to keep popping up, so here’s my best “find” to date.

    There was a dentist in north Phoenix named Pullem, as his sign proclaimed. I never checked on what his first name was, but wouldn’t it be funny if it was something like Ignacius or Isaac or Ivan?

  24. MarcNaimark says:

    I was about to post the same. If the question had been about “toweling” rather than “paper toweling”, I think Martha would have readily accepted the us.Gemma said:

    I was surprised by your discussion of paper towelling. Don’t you call the fabric that bath towels and bath robes are made out of “towelling?” That’s normal to me (in the UK). It’s also the first definition of towelling/toweling in the OED (four quotations: 1582-1880).

    A little bit of searching online reminded me that I also know this fabric by the name terry-towelling, which I discover can also be called terrycloth or terry. I’m assuming that you use a non-towelling name like this, or else the use of “paper towelling” wouldn’t have seemed so alien to Martha.

    All that said…. I’ve never heard someone refer to “paper towelling” before, and I wouldn’t be inclined to ask for a roll of paper towels with “pass me the paper towelling, would you?” I mostly use it in the kitchen anyway, where we dodge this question because it’s called “kitchen roll.”

  25. RossMacLochness says:

    Re: aptronyms

     

    The best I can come up with is a waiter named Terry.

Leave a Reply