This week: Favorite online reading. If the subjunctive mood 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. Listen here:
Download the MP3 here (23.5 MB).
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.
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.
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.
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.
If the subjunctive mood were to disappear from English, would our language be the poorer for it? The hosts have strongly different opinions about it.
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, anyone? If you need a word for “a group of nine things,” that one will do the trick.
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?
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.
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?
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 here, here, and here.
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.