You pick up what you think a glass of water and take a sip, but it turns out to be Sprite. What’s the word for that sensation when you’re expecting one thing and taste something else? Also, slang from college campuses, like ratchet and dime piece. And the story of a writer who published her first novel at age 73, then went on to win a National Book Award. Plus, the origins of bluebloods, Melungeons, Calcutta bets, Vermont Cree-mees, and the phrase used to buck someone up, “can’t died in a cornfield.”

This episode first aired October 11, 2013.

Download the MP3.

 Slang Ratchet
Is it a good thing to be ratchet? This slang term can refer to a bumpin’ party or a girl who’s a hot mess.

 Cephalus Offendo
There’s nothing like a refreshing gulp of water, unless what you thought was water turns out to be vodka or Sprite. When the expectation of what you’ll taste gives way to surprise, shock, and offense, you’ve experienced what one listener calls cephalus offendo. You might also call it anticipointment.

 I See You
The phrase I see you, meaning “I acknowledge what you’re doing,” comes from performance, and pops up often in African-American performance rhetoric.

 Golfing Calcutta
A listener from Charlottesville, Virginia, is dating a professional golfer who often plays a Calcutta with other tour members. Calcutta, a betting game going back over 200 years, involves every player betting before the tournament on who they think will finish with the lowest score. It was first picked up by the British in and around—you guessed it—Kolkata, also known as Calcutta.

When a term paper is due in 24 hours, there’s no better tactic than to break open the Milano cookies and procrastineat.

 M-A-M-A and P-A-P-A Puzzle
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game for the Mamas and the Papas, with two-word phrases beginning with the letters M-A- M-A- or P-A- P-A-.

 Can’t Died in a Cornfield
If you say you can’t accomplish a task, someone might remind you “Mr. Can’t died in a cornfield.” This old saying is particularly evocative if you’ve ever been stuck in a cornfield, because it’s easy to think you won’t make it out. Another version of this phrase is “can’t died in the poorhouse.”

Blueblood, a term often used to refer to WASPy or patrician folks, goes back to the 1700s and the Spanish term sangre azul. It described the class of people who never had to work outside or expose themselves to the sun, so blue veins would show through their ivory, marble-like skin.

 You’re a Dime
If someone’s a dime piece or a dime, they’re mighty attractive — as in, a perfect 10.

 Drunk vs. Drunken
What’s the difference between drunk and drunken? If you dig through the linguistic corpora, or collections of texts, you’ll find that we celebrate with drunken revelry and break into drunken brawls, but individuals drive drunk and or get visibly drunk. Typically, drunken is used for a situation, and drunk refers to a person.

 People Unicorns
Ever seen someone repeatedly around town and made up an elaborate life story for them without actually ever meeting them? In slang terms, that sort of person in your life is called a unicorn.

 Harriet Doerr’s First Book
Harriet Doerr published her first novel, Stones for Ibarra, at the age of 73. It won a National Book Award.

Don’t think about ordering a soft serve ice cream in Vermont—there, it’s a Creemee. The term has stuck around the Green Mountain State by the sheer force of Vermonter pride.

The term Melungeon, applied to a group of people in Southeastern Appalachia marked by swarthy skin and dark eyes, has been used disparagingly in the past. But Melungeons themselves reclaimed that name in the 1960s. The Melungeon Heritage website details some of the mystery behind their origin. The name comes from the French term melange, meaning “mixture.”

 Love You Like a Sister
The initialism LLAS, meaning “love you like a sister,” isn’t a texting phenomenon—it goes back 30 or 40 years to when girls would write each other letters.

 Diminutive Suffixes
Diminutive suffixes, Donnie for Don, change the meaning of a name to something smaller, cuter, or sweeter.

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

Photo by JPDC. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
The Beehive Pocket Resonance Pocket Records
Slop Jar Charles Kynard Woga Mainstream Records
Rock Steady Charles Kynard Woga Mainstream Records
A Man And A Woman David McCallum Music – It’s Happening Now Capitol Records
Set Me Free Pocket Resonance Pocket Records
Off Time Pocket Resonance Pocket Records
Jesse’s Jing In Motion Collective Jesse’s Jing Colemine Records
If I Were a Carpenter David McCallum Music – It’s Happening Now Capitol Records
Passing Pocket Resonance Pocket Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

3 Responses

  1. deaconB says:

    Grant writes:
    What’s the difference between drunk and drunken? If you dig through the linguistic corpora, or collections of texts, you’ll find that we celebrate with drunken revelry and break into drunken brawls, but individuals drive drunk and or get visibly drunk. Typically, drunken is used for a situation, and drunk refers to a person.

    It’s relatively recent that people drive drunk, rather than drive drunken, and my ear still tells me that drive drunk is a coarse illiteralism.  As you point out in this episode, drunk is only an adjective, and one may bee a drunk driver, but not drive drunk according to the traditional rules of this language.  (I recognise that things change; when people defend the traditional definition of marriage, I point out that the traditional rule was that both had to be adults of the same race, and before that, both adults of the white race, and if you go back to the Common Law, both whites at least 8 years old.  But my ears still thinkj driving drunk is literally, as well as morally, wrong.

    In 1960, for instance, drunken driving was about 20 times as common as drunk driving, and it wasn’t until about 1980 that driving drunk became more popular.  MADD was formed in 1980, and you may feel free to scandalously quote me out of context:  MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is responsible for the popularity of drunk driving. It’s the Winston effect: get enough mentions in the media (by paid or unpaid mentions) and illiteralisms sound good like a cigarette should.

  2. RobertB says:

     ‘typically‘  is a very key word above.

    The choice between drunk and drunken  is also idiomatic:

    to drive drunk   (not drunken)

    to swear like a drunken sailor  (not drunk, though:   A bunch of drunk/drunken sailors )

  3. Ron Draney says:

    One thing Grant didn’t mention (is it possible he didn’t know?) is that the expression in the UK is drink driving, which sounds totally ridiculous to my US ears.

    On the other hand, the Brits are also responsible for the best bit of wordplay in which, for the joke to work, the state of being intoxicated must be called drunk and not drunken, this conversation between two people, one of whom is about to experience traveling through hyperspace for the first time:

    Ford: “It’s rather unpleasantly like being drunk”
    Arthur: “What’s so unpleasant about being drunk ?”
    Ford: “Try asking a glass of water”

    From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.