What’s the best way to help your child learn to speak a foreign language? One option is an immersion school, where teachers avoid speaking English. Also, did you ever play padiddle while riding in a car? Plus, what your signature says about you, what to call that last serving of food, sitting on your tuchus, alphabet riddles, camp songs, soup to nuts, and the weather-related phrase “Who let the hawk out?”

This episode first aired Friday, February 17, 2012.

Download the MP3.

 Reading Signatures
What does your signature say about you? In today’s world of PIN-codes and electronic communication, maybe not so much.

 Tushie, Tush, and Tuchus
What’s a tasteful way to refer to one’s rear end? Tushie and tush come from the Yiddish word tuchus. Also spelled tochis and tochas, it is regarded by some folks, such as the New York Times, as “insufficiently elegant.”

 Alphabet Riddles
Grant has alphabet riddles for the young ones. What did the alphabet’s love note say? U R A Q T!

 Padiddle Car Game
Ever play padiddle in the car? You know, that game where you slap the ceiling when another car’s headlight is out? Padiddle, also known as perdiddle and padoodle, goes back to the 1940s, and was originally a kissing game. There’s more about such games, including slug bug, in an earlier episode.

 Not Enough Hair To…
Be on the lookout for instances to drop this Texas colloquialism: “He didn’t have enough hair on his chest to make a wig for a grape!”

 Word Scouts Game
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game called Word Scouts. In order to earn your badge, you’ll have to know the architectural term Bauhaus and the flower that’s also a past tense verb.

 Let the Hawk Out
The phrases “Who let the hawk out?” and “The hawk is flying tonight” both mean “there’s a chilly wind blowing.” This saying is almost exclusive to the African-American community and is associated with that Windy City, Chicago.

 Lawyer vs. Attorney
What’s the difference between a lawyer and an attorney? None, really, for most of us. In the past, though, the word attorney could also refer more generally to a person you “turned to” to represent you, regardless of whether that person had legal training.

How would you fare in a quiz of idiom meanings? If you’re looking to bone up on these colloquial expressions, the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms is a good place to start.

 Last Piece of Food
What do you call the last serving of food on a plate — the one everyone’s too embarrassed to reach for? That last piece has been variously known as the mannersbit or manners piece, a reference to the fact that it’s considered polite to not empty a plate, assuring the hosts that they provided sufficient fare. In Spanish, the last remaining morsel that everyone’s too bashful to take is called la vergüenza, or “the shame.”

 Language Immersion Schools
Grant tells us what he’s learned about language-immersion elementary schools, which he and his family are touring as they prepare their son for kindergarten.

 Camp Songs
What was your favorite camp song? If it sounds like nonsensical scat singing, it may date back to a radio character named Buddy Bear who sang in scat on the Buddy Bear show in the 1940s.

 Another Alphabet Riddle
How does the alphabet get to work? Why, the L, of course!

 Hannah, the Sun
Among some African-Americans, the term Hannah means “the sun.” This sense is memorialized in the lyrics of “Go Down Old Hannah,” a work song from the 1930s. One writer said of this haunting melody: “About 3 o’clock on a long summer day, the sun forgets to move and stops, so then the men sing this song.” The great folklorist Alan Lomax also made recordings of prison workers singing this song.

 Finding New Words
Twitter is a great way to discover words that are new to you and to others. Just search with #newword or “new word,” and you’ll find gems like holus-bolus, meaning the whole thing or all together.

 Soup to Nuts
If something is described as soup to nuts, it’s “the whole thing” or it “runs the gamut.” The phrase refers to an old-fashioned way of dining, beginning with soup and ending with nuts for dessert. The ancient Romans used an analogous expression in Latin: ab ovo usque ad malum, literally, “from the egg to the apple.”

 The Long Up, A Poem
Martha reads a poem by former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan called “The Long Up.”

Photo by Akuppa John Wigham. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Fantasie Impromptu Les Baxter Moog Rock: Great Classic Hits GNP Crescendo
Slot Machine Sound Games Orchestra Games Power Music Scene
Everything Is Everything Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Passing Clouds The Dick Hunter Five Melody and Rhythm Vol 7 Apollo Sound
Rent Party Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Jano’s Revenge Los Sospechos Jano’s Revenge 45rpm Colemine Records
Go Down Old Hannah Leadbelly Go Down Old Hannah – The Library of Congress Recordings Rounder
Hung-Up Salt Hung-Up 45rpm Choctaw Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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27 Responses

  1. EmmettRedd says:

    Concerning manners piece there is an old story about the last piece of chicken one evening. A wind came up and blew out the kerosene lamps. A scream was heard. When the lamps were re-lit, there was grandpa holding the piece of chicken with four forks in the back of his hand. ;-)

    Emmett

  2. Heimhenge says:

    Funny story Emmett! Hadn’t heard that one.

    Back in Wisconsin we used to call the last remaining piece of food “the orphan.” Of course, someone almost always “adopted” it to save the cook the trouble of wrapping and storing it.

    These days (here in Arizona), that scenario seems to only play out during halftime at our poker games, when my wife brings in a platter of pizza for the gang. In most cases, 2-3 people will cut the cards to see who gets the last piece. If everyone is too full, the dog gets it. And of course, the dog has no issues with taking that last piece. Hell, she’ll take a piece off your plate if you don’t watch her.   :)

  3. Glenn says:

    I grew up calling the last serving or morsel the “Old Maid,” as Martha points out. In my understanding, it was not from the idea that the piece itself was left behind as the “Old Maid,” but rather that the person who dared take that piece would be cursed to be an “Old Maid.” Either way, in my family the morsel itself was known as the “Old Maid.”

    In a quick internet search, I also find the phrase “thrive bit.”

  4. Ron Draney says:

    To me, “old maid” in a food context refers to unpopped kernels of popcorn.

  5. EmmettRedd says:

    Heimhenge said:

    Funny story Emmett! Hadn’t heard that one. …

    Heimhenge, you may have encouraged me too much. Here is a conversion to a six-word story (my first):

    “Mannersbit. Dark. Scream. Forks in hand.”

    Out of context, it might not be very good.

    Emmett

  6. myransom says:

    Peter, Paul, and Mary did a song that had Hannah at the end.   I always wondered what this song was about.   Perhaps it had something to do with the sun. The lyrics were:  

    you take a stick of bamboo,
    you take a stick of bamboo,
    you throw it in the water,
    Oh, oh, Hanaah.

    You take a stick of bamboo,
    you take a stick of bamboo,
    you take a stick of bamboo,
    you throw it in the water,
    Oh, oh, Hanaah.

    River, she come down.
    River, she come down.

    You travel on the river,
    you travel on the river,
    you travel on the river,
    you travel on the water,
    Oh, Oh, Hanaah.

    You travel on the river,
    you travel on the river,
    you travel on the river,
    you travel on the water,
    Oh, Oh, Hanaah.

    River, she come down.
    River, she come down.

    My home’s across the river,
    my home’s across the river.
    My home’s across the river,
    my home’s across the water.
    Oh, Oh, Hanaah.

    My home’s across the river,
    my home’s across the river.
    My home’s across the river,
    my home’s across the water.
    Oh, Oh, Hanaah.

    River, she come down.
    River, she come down.
    You take a stick of bamboo,
    you take a stick of bamboo,
    you take a stick of bamboo,
    you throw it in the water

     

     

    We used to do a cheer similar to the one you talked about today.   Ours went: Eat speedily, oten doten, Bo bo sa deeten datten, Hotcha Rotcha Ricka Chicka Rah Rah, Boom a chicka boom, Boom a chicka boom, Ricka chicka Booma chicka, Booma chicka boom!

  7. Glenn says:

    I remember a lot of songs with strings of nonsense syllables. There was a version of “Three Little Fishies,” one of “Mr. Froggie Went A-Courtin’,” and of course, the pseudo-nonsense song “Mairzy Doats” (1943 by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston).

    Mr. Froggie tag and chorus (my transcription as we sang it)
    Sing ring tom bodie mitchie cambo.
    Kee-man-ee-roh
    Down to Cairo
    Kee-man-ee-roh Cairo
    Straddle addle addle bo-bo laddle bo-bo lin-come
    Ring tom bodie mitchie cambo.

    Here is a Tex Ritter version with some different syllables in places: Froggie
    In the Thomas Ravencroft version (1611, Melismata. Mvsicall Phansies. Fitting the Covrt, Citie, and Covntrey Hvmovrs. To 3, 4, and 5. Voyces. The Marriage of the Frogge and the Movse), the nonsense syllables are simply: “… Humble-dum, humble-dum. … tweedle, tweedle twino.”

    Three Little Fishies chorus (my transcription as we sang it)
    Boop boop dittum dattum waddum choo.
    Boop boop dittum dattum waddum choo.
    Boop boop dittum dattum waddum choo.
    And they swam, and they swam …

    Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
    A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?

    Of course, many folk songs with nonsense syllables exist in the record back to the 1600s, like the Ravenscroft above, and maybe earlier. Other songs in the Ravenscroft Melismata have syllables such as
    “Downe a downe, hay down, hay downe … downe derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe.”
    “Derrie ding, ding, ding Dasson, I am John Cheston, we weeddon we wodden, we weedon, we wodden, Bim bom, bim bom, bim bom, bim bom.”
    “a hey nony nony, hay nony nony hey nony no, ney nony no, ney nony no.”

  8. EmmettRedd says:

    Glenn said:

    I remember a lot of songs with strings of nonsense syllables. There was a version of “Three Little Fishies,” one of “Mr. Froggie Went A-Courtin’,” and of course, the pseudo-nonsense song “Mairzy Doats” (1943 by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston).

    Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
    A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?

    Of course, many folk songs with nonsense syllables exist in the record back to the 1600s, like the Ravenscroft above, and maybe earlier.

    My university Deutsche teacher said that was not nonsense syllables, but an example of how english speakers slur their words together (as contrasted with the glottal stops between words in Deutsche). The unslurred rendition goes:

    Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.
    A kid will eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?

    So I would put it is a little different class than folk songs with nonsense syllables.

    BTW, does and kids are goats.

    Emmett

  9. Glenn says:

    Of course, you are completely correct about the pseudo-nonsense song “Mairzy Doats” (sic), and that is why I called it a pseudo-nonsense song. The song itself explains the joke:

    Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
    A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?
    .[Bridge]
    If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
    Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

  10. EmmettRedd says:

    Glenn said:

    Of course, you are completely correct about the pseudo-nonsense song “Mairzy Doats” (sic), and that is why I called it a pseudo-nonsense song. The song itself explains the joke:

    Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
    A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?
    .[Bridge]
    If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
    Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

    Thanks, Glenn. I had never heard the rest of the song.

    Emmett

  11. Dick says:

    EmmettRedd said:

    BTW, does and kidsare goats.
    Emmett

    Doe =   a deer, a female deer.

  12. EmmettRedd says:

    Dick said:

    EmmettRedd said:

    BTW, does and kidsare goats.
    Emmett

    Doe =   a deer, a female deer.

    Also, doe = a goat, a female goat. While not so lyrical, it is the kind more likely to be fed oats.

  13. Ron Draney says:

    Another verse of “Mairzy Doats”, at least as Kay Kyser’s band recorded it, goes:

    Frogs eat bugs and birds eat bugs
    And little dogs eat liver.

    No slurring in that part though. And a few years ago in an online forum someone posted:

    Cowzy tweet and sowzy tweet
    And liddle sharksey doysters.

    No idea where that one came from.


    Another nonsense song from about the same era went:

    Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit,
    Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla sooit.
    Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit,
    Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla sooit.

    This too was explained in a subsequent verse.

  14. pmb says:

    The nonsense song immediately reminded me of the Looney Tunes short, Super Rabbit. It had a cheer for Bugs that went,

    Bricka bracka, firecracka, sis boom ba! Bugs Bunny, Bugs Bunny, rah rah  rah!”

    pmb

  15. Dick says:

    EmmettRedd said:

    Also, doe = a goat, a female goat. While not so lyrical, it is the kind more likely to be fed oats.

    Thanks for new information.   All I ever knew was “billies and nannies” but I see “bucks and does” are an option.   I am sure goats are more likely to be fed oats but there is a lot stolen by deer.

  16. telemath says:

    When attorney meant any sort of representative, was “attorney at law” coined to specify that the attorney is also a lawyer?

     

    I see some distinctions not in the definitions of attorney, lawyer and counselor (used in the legal sense), but in the voice.   Lawyer is the everyman’s word.   Attorney is very official sounding – good for throwing weight around.   And  counselor is more sympathetic.   An attorney might call himself a counselor to help a new client warm up to him.

  17. Glenn says:

    And to my ear, counselor is the only one of the three that can be used in direct address.
    Counselor, what is your objection? Counselor, approach the bench.
    But not
    *Attorney, what is your objection? *Attorney, approach the bench.
    *Lawyer, what is your objection? *Lawyer, approach the bench.

  18. Ron Draney says:

    telemath said:

    I see some distinctions not in the definitions of attorney, lawyer and counselor (used in the legal sense), but in the voice.   Lawyer is the everyman’s word.   Attorney is very official sounding – good for throwing weight around.   And  counselor is more sympathetic.   An attorney might call himself a counselor to help a new client warm up to him.

    Now let’s see if we can figure out the difference between solicitor and barrister.

    Actually, since the caller was Spanish-speaking, I’m surprised you didn’t touch on the Spanish word abogado. That’s the one I see on all the billboards around here, and it has a definite English cognate in advocate, although that’s more a role than a profession.

  19. Glenn says:

    This is an interesting problem for machine translation from French: lawyer salad was a common mistranslation from the French for avocado salad. Both lawyer and avocado in French are avocat.

  20. telemath says:

    Glenn said:

    This is an interesting problem for machine translation from French: lawyer salad was a common mistranslation from the French for avocado salad. Both lawyer and avocado in French are avocat.

    In one of his books, Poul Anderson described an alien beast that was so voracious and stupid it would eat its own vomit and feces.   He called it an “advokat”.   I recognized it as Danish for lawyer.

  21. bsinger says:

    My favorite Texas colloquialism: That boy doesn’t have the sense God gave a good pair of boots.

  22. I learned a song out of our textbook in music class in elementary school called “King of the Cannibal Islands”. It contains nonsense lyrics in the chorus, and from my recent searching apparently it was a popular camp song and dates all the way back to 1813.
    I wonder if any of these other songs/lyrics are related?
    A good thread about the song, with various interpretations is here:
    http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=9724

  23. hippogriff says:

    Old Maid: The origin I was told (1930s) referred to popcorn because they hadn’t been popped (popped the question, proposed to).

  24. gcuvier says:

    In my family no one wanted the last piece so they would not BE the old maid. The last piece was always called “Elmer” (I have no idea why).

  25. EmmettRedd says:

    Glenn said:

    This is an interesting problem for machine translation from French: lawyer salad was a common mistranslation from the French for avocado salad. Both lawyer and avocado in French are avocat.

    A lawyer salad made me think of the old lawyer joke:

    Q: Do you know why sharks will not eat a lawyer?

    A: Professional courtesy.

  26. theothersylvia says:

    Re: signatures, and subsequently, handwriting

    As an adolescent I spent hours perfecting my handwriting while  inscribing the names of current heart-throbs on my pee-chee. I was also required by my dad to  hand-write an  error-less  weekly letter to my grandmother.  

    However, now, in the last days of my fifth decade, my handwriting is nearly illegible and my  signature consistently inconsistent. I mix upper- and lower-case letters randomly, vary my slant from right to middle to left, even within the same word as well as in the body of my writing, and I find I often eliminate letters which I know I should have included but have no knowledge of why I didn’t. This is not a mental-deficiency problem (I like to believe), but probably comes from the lack of time and inclination.

    Why write when I can type and email? Why sign when I can use PINs. But I do find it rather dismal that the flourishes and graphically designed dots over the i of my youthful autograph are diminished to a drawn-out, unreadable, wavy line that is supposed to represent and signify, well, me.

    I must work on that. Sometime.

  27. timinindy says:

    I remember the Ace Hardware store commercials, too. The variation of the soup to nuts phrase they used was, “from scoop to nuts.”

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