Favorite online reading. If the subjunctive tense were to disappear from English, would anybody care? And just in time for this romantic weekend, a caller discovers the meaning of…lurve. That’s L-U-R-V-E.

This episode first aired February 14, 2009.

Download the MP3.

 Online Language Resources
Martha and Grant share a couple of favorite online sources for reading about language: Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words newsletter and Arnold Zwicky’s blog. Be sure to check out Zwicky’s post, “Dialect dangerous to cats” for a look at The Lion Cut.

 Texanisms
If you’re a Texan, you may be familiar with the phrases “raise the window down” and “help your plate.” If not, you’ll find translations here.

 The Crazy Cosmic Lurve God
What’s lurve got to do with it? A caller is puzzled by a greeting card with the phrase “crazy cosmic lurve god.” Linguistics fans will fan themselves as Grant explains the roots of this expression with linguistic terms like the intrusive R and epenthesis.

 Weight Loss Program Word Quiz
Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a puzzle called “Weight Loss Program.” The object is to guess a pair of words from his clues. Remove a unit of weight from the first word in the pair, and you’ll get the second word. Example: “A Palm Beach County resort town whose name is Spanish for “mouth of the rat,” and “A timely benefit or blessing.” The answer weighs in at 2,000 pounds.

 The Subjunctive Tense
If the subjunctive tense were to disappear from English, would our language be the poorer for it? The hosts have strongly different opinions about it.

 Yeah, No
Ever notice when people start to answer to a question with the words, “Yeah, no–“? Linguists have been studying this seemingly contradictory phrase for years. It may look like oxymoron, but it’s not.

 Ennead
Ennead, anyone? If you need a word for “a group of nine things,” that one will do the trick.

 Chutzpah and Daybreak on Slang This!
In this week’s installment of Slang This!, a member of the National Puzzlers League tries to separate the real slang terms from the fake ones. Try this one: If you have chutzpah, might you also be said to “have the stitches” to get things done, or “have the brass” to get things done? Here’s another: Which of the following is a slang term for “daybreak”? Rancid butter’s melt? Or sparrow’s fart?

 By and Large
The cleverly named “Buy n Large” corporation in the movie Wall-E has a caller wondering why we say use the phrase “by and large” to mean “generally speaking.” It has its origins on the high seas.

 Swarthy
Does the word swarthy mean “hairy”? A man has a running dispute with his wife the English teacher, who insists it does. Is she right?

 Auto-Antonyms
Cleave, dust, and screen are all words that can mean the opposite of themselves. You can cleave to a belief, meaning to “adhere closely,” but you can also separate things by cleaving them. Words that mean the opposite of themselves go by many different names, including contranyms, contronyms, auto-antonyms, and Janus words. Lists from an MIT teacher, Polysemania Blog, and this website on English Word Information. Martha talks about enantiodromia, which is “the process by which something becomes its opposite,” particularly when an individual or community adopts beliefs antithetical to beliefs they held earlier.

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

Photo by Darin Kim. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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34 Responses

  1. xheralt says:

    Ah, yes, The Lurve… isn’t that a famous museum in France? :wink:

  2. Matt Holck says:

    Cleave, dust, and screen are all words that can mean the opposite of themselves. You can cleave to a belief, meaning to “adhere closely,” but you can also separate things by cleaving them. Words that mean the opposite of themselves go by many different names, including contranyms, contronyms, auto-antonyms, and Janus words.

    I can’t think of any others

    I know we give things up when we make concessions,
    but we get confections at the concession stand.

    I can agree with someone when I concur,
    but I can dominate when I conquer.

  3. bill says:

    Love the show. I believe that “Lurve” is a reference to “Annie Hall”.

  4. By Jove, Bill, I believe you’re right! I’ll see if I can find a clip of the moment.

    On edit: Here’s the moment in the movie Annie Hall, which was released in 1977.

    QuickTime: http://www.waywordradio.org/An…..f-love.mov

    MP4: http://www.waywordradio.org/Annie-Hall-lurve-luff-love.mp4

  5. More about yeah no at Language Log.

  6. Ron says:

    Your blog hint that “the answer weighs in at 2,000 pounds” for the example of Greg Pliska’s game this week sent me down entirely the wrong path. Knowing that the answer was supposed to mean “a timely benefit or blessing”, I tried to remove “ton” from “Boca Raton” and ended up with “bocara”.

    Never heard the word before, but I figured it must be a variant or cognate of “barucha”.

  7. Matt Holck says:

    Here’s a weight loss riddle

    1] cardboard box or container (the longer word)

    2] A 2000 kilograms steal container that transports a 200 pound person
    (the word with the weight removed)

  8. Jenny says:

    I don’t have a strong opinion about the life or death of the subjunctive mood in English.
    HOWEVER, you folks, particularly Grant, did get a huge guffaw out of me with your discussion this week.

    You see, hard on the heels of Grant’s firm stance — people who insist on using the subjunctive are putting it on life support — I heard him say, “I see what’s happening here… If this were a hundred fifty years ago, and the cotton gin were invented, you’d say, ‘No thank you.’ “

    Gee, Grant, was that twice in one sentence? Hard habit to kick, eh. Not that I quarrel with your word choice, but if you were looking for a chance to drive your point home, you missed it this time!

    Affectionately,
    Jenny

    P.S.
    And, by the way, I do have a strong opinion about your show.
    It’s the cat’s meow.
    (Or, as we say in my family, it’s the lobster’s thermodore.)

  9. Bios Theoretikos says:

    I agree that swarthy refers to dark skin, but its use seems to be restricted to describing the face. Consequently, not shaving gives an appearance often referred to as swarthy. I have never heard a female described as swarthy!

    Chris

  10. Matt Holck says:

    “swarthy” sounded like a word Rudyard Kipling would use

    I found a case

    So shall you mazed amid old memories stand,
    So shall you toil, and shall accomplish nought,
    And ever in your ears a phantom Band
    Shall blare away the staid official thought.
    Wherefore — and ere this awful curse he spoken,
    Cast out your swarthy sacrilegious train,
    And give — ere dancing cease and hearts be broken –
    Give us our ravished ball-room back again!

    http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1077.html

  11. Charts says:

    <Yeah, No –

    I think that “yeah” is more an acknowledgement: sort of “I hear you”.
    A friend of mine phones me, I answer with hello (and I’m the only one who might answer); He says, Yeah Hi, and then goes on to why he called.

  12. ablestmage says:

    >enantiodromia

    That's great! I've been looking for a word to describe “becoming one's own oppressor” such as the way that someone might hypocritically seek revenge by exacting the identical circumstance upon someone else who had persecuted them originally (whereas revenge might simply be to cause harm in return one way or another [such as killing a rapist], rather than identically). Perhaps a slave who was whipped seizes an opportunity, in mutiny, to whip his slavemaster — or perhaps a person who is offended by namecalling, opting to call the namecaller a name in response. Might this word be appropriate? 

    Becoming one's own oppressor might also be found in someone who loathes a particular mindset or thought process (such as particular individuals who despise the homosexual perspetive), that, in trying to understand the offending mindset, ends up instead promoting the freedom to think that way.  There's turncoat as a noun, so perhaps I could verb it ^_^

  13. Ron said:

    Your blog hint that “the answer weighs in at 2,000 pounds” for the example of Greg Pliska’s game this week sent me down entirely the wrong path. Knowing that the answer was supposed to mean “a timely benefit or blessing”, I tried to remove “ton” from “Boca Raton” and ended up with “bocara”.

    Never heard the word before, but I figured it must be a variant or cognate of “barucha”.


    Whoa, Ron! Spanish, English, and Hebrew all rolled into one? Obviously you're one of those too-smart-for-your-own-good puzzlers! :-)

  14. >>>>>

    You see, hard on the heels of Grant’s firm stance — people who insist on using the subjunctive are putting it on life support — I heard him say, “I see what’s happening here… If this were a hundred fifty years ago, and the cotton gin were invented, you’d say, ‘No thank you.’ “

    Gee, Grant, was that twice in one sentence? Hard habit to kick, eh. Not that I quarrel with your word choice, but if you were looking for a chance to drive your point home, you missed it this time!

    Jenny, I'm not sure, but I have a feeling Grant was funnin' with me there. :-)

    And thanks for the kind words about the show. I'm going to have to steal “the lobster's therimdor”!

  15. ablestmage said:

    >enantiodromia

    That's great! I've been looking for a word to describe “becoming one's own oppressor” such as the way that someone might hypocritically seek revenge by exacting the identical circumstance upon someone else who had persecuted them originally (whereas revenge might simply be to cause harm in return one way or another [such as killing a rapist], rather than identically). Perhaps a slave who was whipped seizes an opportunity, in mutiny, to whip his slavemaster — or perhaps a person who is offended by namecalling, opting to call the namecaller a name in response. Might this word be appropriate? 

    Becoming one's own oppressor might also be found in someone who loathes a particular mindset or thought process (such as particular individuals who despise the homosexual perspetive), that, in trying to understand the offending mindset, ends up instead promoting the freedom to think that way.  There's turncoat as a noun, so perhaps I could verb it ^_^


    ablestmage, I know what you're talking about, and I feel as though I've heard a word for it, but I'm drawing a blank. Anyone? Anyone?

  16. Charts said:

    <Yeah, No –

    I think that “yeah” is more an acknowledgement: sort of “I hear you”.
    A friend of mine phones me, I answer with hello (and I’m the only one who might answer); He says, Yeah Hi, and then goes on to why he called.


    You know, Charts, it's interesting: After we did that call, I had a chat with someone who teaches at a university, and he said he hears students saying, “Yeah-no” ALL the time, but in a way that's much more sarcastic than we described on the air. Sort of as if they're leading you on, making you think they agree with you, but then they change what they're saying at the last second, from affirmative to negative. Something more like “Yeaaaaaaaaah-NO!” As if you're an idiot for assuming that the answer was “Yeah” instead of “No.” Sort of like when it was all the rage to add “NOT!” at the end of a sentence.

    Anyone heard it this way?

  17. Matt Holck says:

    Perhaps, the yeah is an acknowledgment that the listener has heard the statement
    while “No” is the answer to that statement.

    “not”s slip out of my intended thread posts

    when speaking loosely,
    one may need to tie a dropped not at the end.

    I did not remember the German placement of the negative.
    Ich erinnere mich nicht die an deutsche Platzierung des Negativs.
    http://babelfish.yahoo.com/translate_txt

    looks like the not comes after the verb.

  18. Glenn Atkinson says:

    I plan to continue using the subjunctive.

    I would like to encourage all of us word-lovers to consider our love of the richness of vocabulary, slang, obscure words, and regional expressions — even in the face of potential incomprehensibility. Most would acknowledge that, while we might be able to do without some of these, our language would be the poorer for their loss.

    Extend the lexical love and take the same approach to the subtlety of grammar — in this case, infrequently used mood. Perhaps we can avoid the subjunctive and instead clarify our meaning with extra words. How sad to lose the choice.

    On the matter of the subjunctive mood in English, I am both pro-life and pro-choice.

  19. Kaa says:

    A couple of comments:

    If you listen carefully to some of Celine Dion's earlier stuff, she says “lurve” just about every time. And now you'll never hear it as “love” again. :)

    About the “lion” cut vs. “line” cut: The lion cut is, of course, for long-haired cats.  I used to have a Himalayan with long, gorgeous, silky fur.  Which clumped into painful mats if I just looked at him hard.  Every few months I'd take him to the groomer and get him lion cut.  He lurved it.  The mats were gone, he was not a walking advertisement for anti-static laundry sheets, and he could actually feel me petting him.  The first time he jumped into my lap after his first lion cut, I started petting him and he started to purr loudly and drool, it felt so good.

    As for the cat looking unhappy, these are Persian or Persian-derived cats.  Their faces are pushed in.  They have, basically, three expressions: ticked off, curious, and bored. :)

  20. Kaa says:

    martha said:

    Something more like “Yeaaaaaaaaah-NO!” As if you're an idiot for assuming that the answer was “Yeah” instead of “No.” Sort of like when it was all the rage to add “NOT!” at the end of a sentence.

    Anyone heard it this way?


    Oh, yes.  In fact, I've picked it up from some of my younger friends.  I'm 43, but a good number of my friends are a decade or so younger than I am.  I find myself picking up on their speech patterns.  Things like “I'm not SAYIN'…I'm just SAYIN'…” (ellipses added to indicate pauses, not to indicate left-out words).   The “Yeah, no” one is another addition.  I concur with you, Martha, that when I hear it, most of the time, it is sarcastic.

    I think I even responded this way when a good friend asked if I wanted to go to a NASCAR race this-coming weekend.  I said, “Yeah, no” in a very sarcastic tone.  Another phrase that serves the same purpose is the über-sarcastic, “Oh, hold me back!

  21. hockeyfan says:

    I, too, have only ever heard “Ya-no” as a sarcastic expression where the speaker thinks it’s an obvious “no” answer. So when your caller’s wife says: “Ya-no, we are not spending $50…” it’s an obvious no based on her thoughts about the dog.

    The way it’s said it appears the speaker is considering your question, but only for the briefest of moments, before they give you the “correct” answer of “no”.

    For example, if I’m a fan of the Montreal Canadians hockey team and I get asked if I’m going to buy a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey the answer is: “Ya-no”. There’s more of an emphasis on the “no” than the “ya”.

    I’ve heard this for about 10 years from people my own age (50ish) in Alberta.

    I apologize for the overuse of quotes, but don’t know how else to make the sentences read the way I’m saying them.

  22. MattPatAtty says:

    ablestmage said:

    … perhaps I could verb it ^_^


    As I listened to this and another recent episode in the podcast, with all of their meta-goodness (words for classes of words, and the like), I noticed hearing many recent examples of using nouns as verbs. I thought at the time that the right word for this phenomenon might be “verbing” the noun, and I enjoyed the “meta” of that thought.

    I think we’re onto something!

  23. Kaa says:

    MattPatAtty said:

    As I listened to this and another recent episode in the podcast, with all of their meta-goodness (words for classes of words, and the like), I noticed hearing many recent examples of using nouns as verbs. I thought at the time that the right word for this phenomenon might be “verbing” the noun, and I enjoyed the “meta” of that thought.

    I think we’re onto something!


    I believe that the “academic” word for using a word as another part of speech is “anthimeria.” My favorite use of it ever was from Calvin and Hobbes: “Verbing weirds language.”

  24. AnMa says:

    Grant, I’m not buying your explanation of “lurve.” I do hear intrusive Rs in some accents, but they have to do with separating adjacent vowel sounds. I’ve never heard this intrusive R that results from an exaggerated, emphatic, or lengthened vowel from someone whose accent doesn’t already include intrusive rhotics.

    Frankly, the only way “lurve” makes sense to me is from the perspective of someone with a nonrhotic accent. I can see a British person imitating Barry White and coming up with the spelling “lurve” to match it. So it doesn’t have anything to do with an actual R sound.

  25. Gedaly says:

    AnMa said:

    ” I do hear intrusive Rs in some accents, but they have to do with separating adjacent vowel sounds.


    What about Wash/warsh and oyster/erster? Intrusive Rs are often Linking Rs, but there are exceptions.

    My favorite is from the online Homestar Runner cartoons, popular several year back, in which one character instead of “good job” says “GOOD JORB!”

  26. wwkudu says:

    Ya-no, (very common in South Africa, and probably influence by the Afrikaans ja-nee which is less slangy than it’s english equivalent), you guys didn’t offer an explanation for the origin of “raise the window down”. What do you think? Two things came to mind for me: sash windows where the window had two linked sections such that raising the bottom section lowered the top section and in face opened the window. The second thought was whether there could have been a Dutch influence. Dutch seems to use more “double prepositions” especially where movement is indicated, along the lines of “i am walking in the road down”. Dutch in Texas – I wouldn’t know. First use? I could only find a reference to the name of a ?musical show in a 1942 “Billboard” magazine.
    Thanks for the great show.

  27. Kaa: Thank you for introducing the lovely word “anthimeria” into the discussion!

  28. Welcome, wwkudu. I’ve only read about the “Ya-no” in South Africa, so it’s nice to have it confirmed.

    >>> where the window had two linked sections such that raising the bottom section lowered the top section and in face opened the window.<<

    Seems plausible, although I'd love to know more about possibilities from other languages.

  29. samaphore says:

    Kaa: Thank you for introducing the lovely word “anthimeria” into the discussion!

    Yes, Kaa, thank you. But why don’t any of my dictionaries have this fine word? I couldn’t find it even in my online dictionaries. I found it on Wiki, of all places! Ya-No!

  30. Kaa says:

    samaphore said:

    Kaa: Thank you for introducing the lovely word “anthimeria” into the discussion!

    Yes, Kaa, thank you. But why don’t any of my dictionaries have this fine word? I couldn’t find it even in my online dictionaries. I found it on Wiki, of all places! Ya-No!


    Try onelook.com. :) It shows up in 8 dictionaries, there, one of which is the Luciferous Logolepsy, which is a great source for obscure words. Which I collect. :) Like tmesis, apophthegm, and perenidnation. I love words….

  31. Glenn says:

    I might say you LURVE words.

  32. pi_indisguise says:

    You see, hard on the heels of Grant’s firm stance — people who insist on using the subjunctive are putting it on life support — I heard him say, “I see what’s happening here… If this were a hundred fifty years ago, and the cotton gin were invented, you’d say, ‘No thank you.’ “

    Gee, Grant, was that twice in one sentence? Hard habit to kick, eh. Not that I quarrel with your word choice, but if you were looking for a chance to drive your point home, you missed it this time!


    YES!! Love listening to you, Grant, but this did make me giggle. Do as I say I say not as I say?

    Pi

  33. Did you consider that I used the subjunctive on purpose? Well, I did. I’m surprised how few people have seemed to consider that.

  34. Glenn says:

    The initial call was that you were offsides. On reviewing the video tape, the judges see your tongue was firmly in your cheek. No penalty.

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