Books that make great gifts for language-lovers, the difference between a nerd and a geek, and talk about a new term, poutrage, and what do you call the crust in the corners of your eyes after a night’s sleep?

This episode first aired December 11, 2010.

Download the MP3.

 Toponyms
What do the words marathon, paisley, and bikini have in common? They’re all words that derive from the names of places. Martha and Grant talk about these and other toponyms.

 Geek or Nerd?
What’s the difference between a geek and a nerd? An Ohio professor of popular culture wants to talk about it. Here’s the a MetaFilter thread and a Venn diagram about the differences.

 Spendy
In the Pacific Northwest, the term spendy means “expensive.”

 Updates for the Skedooly
Grant has an update on the jocular pronunciation of skedooly for the word schedule, following up on our original conversation.

 Repeat After Me Word Quiz
Puzzle Guy John Chaneski presents a quiz called “Repeat After Me.” It’s a quiz that’s neither so-so nor too-too.

 Yambo
A Marine at Camp Pendleton says that while in Iraq, he and his buddies heard the greeting “Yambo!” from Ugandan troops there. Now they use it with each other, and he wonders about its literal meaning. Martha explains that it’s a common Kiswahili term.

 Foreignisms and Loanwords
In the novel Jane Eyre, characters sometimes speak whole sentences in French. A high school English teacher says her students wonder if there’s a term for inserting whole sentences from another language into fiction. Grant talks about the use of foreignisms and loanwords.

 Camel’s Nemesis
Martha has a crazy crossword clue sent by a listener: “Camel’s Nemesis.” Twelve letters. Got it?

 Names for Locals
Residents of Maine are called “Mainers,” people in Texas are “Texans,” those in Wisconsin are “Wisconsinites,” and people in Phoenix are … “Phoenicians”? Grant and Martha explain that there are consistent rules for the naming the locals. The book they reference is Paul Dickson’s Labels for Locals.

 Books for Language Lovers
Martha and Grant offer gift recommendations for language lovers:

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, by Guy Deutscher.
OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, by Allan Metcalf.
Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers, by Pendred Noyce.
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language, by Deborah Fallows.

 Cat Butter
What do you call the crust that forms in the corners of your eyes when you sleep? Sleepy dust, sleepy sand, eyejam, eye boogers, eye potatoes, sleep sugar, eye crusties, sleepyjacks. An Indiana man wonders if anyone else uses his family’s term for it, cat butter.

 “Toe the Line” vs. “Tow the Line”
Is the proper phrase toe the line or tow the line?

 OK Moon Talk
Grant talks about how that great American export, the word OK, was part of the first conversation on the surface of the moon.

 Downgrades
You upgrade your software, and instead of working better, it’s worse. Is there a word for that phenomenon? Downgrade? Oopsgrade? How about Newcoked?

 Poutrage
Poutrage is a new term for “acting outraged when you’re really not. It’s sort of like accismus, “the pretended refusal of something actually very much desired.”

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

Photo by Mark Probst. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Labels for Locals by Paul Dickson
Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher
OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word by Allan Metcalf
Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers by Pendred Noyce
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Go Je Je Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra Government Magic Afrosound Records
Musicawa Silt The Daktaris Soul Explosion Desco Records
It’s Too Late Johnny “Hammond” Smith Breakout KUDU
Funky So And So Sugarman 3 and Co. Pure Sugar Cane Daptone Records
Ghetto Funk Duralcha Funk Spectrum II BBE
Daktaris Walk The Daktaris Soul Explosion Desco Records
Breakout Johnny “Hammond” Smith Breakout KUDU
Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Maseo & All The Kings Men Doing Their Own Thing Charly Records
Funky Washing Machine World Wonders Funk Spectrum II BBE
Tropical African Music Machine Stone Cold Funk Music Club Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Fred Astaire Fred Astaire’s Finest Hour Verve
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32 Responses

  1. EmmettRedd says:

    I remember when I was about 6 that on several occasions my eyes would be glued shut upon awakening. My mother called it “matter” as she used a warm washcloth to open my eyes. This may be an extreme form of “sleepy dust”.

    Added in edit: I see that this sense is in 19b of the Oxford English Dictionary.

    Emmett

  2. Ron Draney says:

    Yes, definitely “matter” when I was little, and elaborated as “yellow matter custard” in “I Am The Walrus”.

    Also simply called “sleep”, as in “wipe the sleep from my eyes” in the 1971 hit “One Fine Morning”.

  3. tunawrites says:

    Ron Draney said:

    Yes, definitely “matter” when I was little, and elaborated as “yellow matter custard” in “I Am The Walrus”.

    Yes, but that “yellow matter custard” was “dripping from a dead dog’s eye,” at least the way I sang it when one of my old bands covered it. I hope it’s not the same thing as the “sleep” in our eyes when we wake up. I really don’t know what the Beatles’ lyric means, but in the context of the song—well, I still don’t know what it means.

  4. Kaa says:

    Hey, Martha and Grant! The quote to which Grant referred is as follows:

    The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

    - James D. Nicoll

    Mr. Nicoll blogs regularly on LiveJournal at http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/. He has lamented a time or two on his journal that people frequently misattribute his quote to other people, or say it’s “anonymous,” when with a 10-second Google search, you can find out it was him. :)

    As for what they call people from Alabama…I most often hear “Alabamian,” but where the heck does that stupid ‘i’ come from? I make a special point of carefully enunciating “Alabaman,” and look defiantly in people’s eyes and dare anyone to correct me. :)

    I’m from Alabama, but currently live in Atlanta, Georgia. And yes, it’s “Atlantan.” :)

  5. CheddarMelt says:

    I am so glad that this episode included a little something about locals’ names for themselves. I will definitely have to find that book, Labels for Locals.

    My husband sometimes refers to people who won’t eat eggs or dairy as /VAY-gunz/, and I laugh because that’s a locals-name for people from that big shiny gambling hotspot in Nevada, but /VEE-guns/ would be from a well-known, bright blue star. So perhaps the diet-restricted individuals should henceforth be known as /VEJ-unz/?

    Before I was a /VAY-gun/, I was a cheesehead, but I grew up a little to the south (yes I was a Flatlander). My father was a Troll, as opposed to being a Yooper. Sometimes I would ask people from other states if they has similar names for people from neighboring states. Nobody else admitted to having teasing nicknames for their neighbors.
    There is no way this is a western-great-lakes-only thing. So what are some of the other (externally applied) state names out there?

  6. Ricky Wilks says:

    We grew up with the word “matter” to describe eye gunk as well.

    I just wanted to chime in and add a book recommendation. It’s about ten years old, but a fun book that plays with words is Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. The premise is fun and the twists he takes on language, almost making his sentences into balloon animals close to the end of the book, are a pleasure.

    (Former Louisianian, current Bostonian and Masshole ;-)

  7. kate_pembroke says:

    Regarding Jane Eyre and mixed language …

    Could the use of French in the English novel be considered macaronic language? I was trying to remember this term just this morning, as I was listening to the Christmas carol “In Dulci Jubilo” (or sometimes, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”) which blends German and Latin.

  8. Bubba in Texas says:

    I absolutely LOVE the idea of using the word “New-Coked” (is that how you would write it?) to mean an upgrade/solution that makes things worse than they were before (I also liked the word “oopsgraded”, so good on you, Martha!). The example I thought of almost immediately was when Merriam-Webster published the Third Edition of The Offical Scrabble Players Dictionary, in which they tried to make it more “family-friendly” by removing the offensive words. The immediate reaction from most of the Scrabble community was a resounding “FAIL!” (or at least it would have been if that exclamation had been around back then). I believe the Second Edition continues to be the preferred edition among die-hard Scrabble players.

    Edited to correctly spell “Merriam-Webster”.

  9. Ron Draney says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    Residents of Maine are called “Mainers,” people in Texas are “Texans,” those in Wisconsin are “Wisconsinites,” and people in Phoenix are … “Phoenicians“? Grant and Martha explain that there are consistent rules for the naming the locals. The book they reference is Paul Dickson’s Labels for Locals.


    It’s when you get to Michiganders that you begin to sense that some people aren’t taking this thing seriously.

    (On the international front, a Sahrawi, a Monegasque and a Burkinabe walk into a bar….)

  10. Heimhenge says:

    … and the bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”

  11. dino says:

    I remember chatting to a friend of mine in the Beaverton, Oregon area on the phone. I met him online, and we became friends through a shared love of a web comic. The first time I called him on the phone to chat (because I was tired, and not in the mood for typing on the instant messenger), he dropped the word “spendy” on me. The neat thing about it is that I didn’t even notice it, because the second he said it, I knew exactly what he was talking about. It’s not until years later, when I heard this episode, that it struck me that nobody else in my life used that word except other Portalnders.

    EDIT: I absolutely love “New-Coked”. Again, it’s one of those terms, that when you say it, everyone around you instantly gets it. Oopsgraded had me giggling my diet coke into my nasal passages on the subway. Not a comfortable moment.

    RE: Geek vs Nerd. From my perspective, a geek is generally one who’s more on the technical side, and sort of single-minded in her or his love for whatever the subject may be. A nerd, on the other hand, just likes learning new things, regardless of the venue. I’d say it’s a generalist versus specialist sort of thing. Nerds love knowledge for its own sake; geeks love knowledge about their subject, and/or range of subjects (there’s some kind of unholy trinity of Ren Faire, D&D, and a love for pictures of cats), to the exclusion of other knowledge. I’m only speaking from my own understanding of it.

    PS I’m a nerd.

  12. libraryleah says:

    My mother and grandmother always refered to the stuff in our eyes when we woke up as “sleepy bugs”, as in “Go wash those sleepy bugs out of your eyes.” Don’t know where it came from, but I still call them that to this day.

  13. JackieRevilla says:

    I was so surprised that “spendy” was a regional word. I have lived in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska and everyone I know uses the word.

  14. bettysketty says:

    I’m from the San Diego mountains and first heard “spendy” in 1998 or 1999 from an online friend who lives in Montana. I knew right away what she was talking about.

    And as for those eye goobers? Yuck! All day long, every day I’m wiping them out of my dogs’ eyes.

    Arizonans are commonly referred to as “Zonies” in this area. Slightly derogatory since they infiltrate the San Diego area every summer when their temps soar. Do Arizonans refer to themselves as “Zonies”? I don’t know. I’m curious since I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.

  15. Heimhenge says:

    I’ve been an Arizonan since 1978, and first heard the term “Zonie” or “Zony” (not sure if there is an official spelling) used in a derogatory sense by Californians (are they “Fornies”) for exactly that reason. Many of us escape to the coast for a respite from our hottest weather in July and August. I have never heard an Arizonan refer to themselves as a “Zonie.”

    It’s kinda like the term “snowbirds,” which we use to refer to all those temporary visitors from the Midwest who arrive right after the Holidays, and then bail out in March/April when things start warming up again. They bring a lot of income to the state, but they also add to our already heavy traffic load and generally slow down travel. This term is usually used in a derogatory sense as well.

  16. I always thought the sleepy bits in one’s eyes were the sandman’s dust so was surprised to see all the terms for it.

    upstate New Yorkan by birth
    currently Sapporite (Japan)

  17. johng423 says:

    Michigander: I grew up there, and remember one friend being quite offended by this term (since she was a female, I can understand why). She offered Michiganite as an alternative, but I never heard anyone pick up on that one.

    Now I live in Indiana, where the residents are commonly called Hoosiers. I have yet to hear a term derived from the state name. ?

  18. SGsays says:

    Ron Draney said:

    It’s when you get to Michiganders that you begin to sense that some people aren’t taking this thing seriously.


    Ouch! Being a Michigander, I can assure you that Michigander is completely legit. =)
    List of demonyms for U.S. states
    It’s impressive to me how many of these seem to be sports team name loyalty. =)

    And I’m not sure whether people much younger than age 25 would “get” the term NewCoked. I prefer oopsgrade or something that plays off the word downgrade more.

  19. SchreiberBike says:

    I was told that the stuff in my eyes when I woke up in the morning was sand, and it had been delivered by the sandman.

  20. Shawn25 says:

    dino said:

    I remember chatting to a friend of mine in the Beaverton, Oregon area on the phone. I met him online, and we became friends through a shared love of a web comic. The first time I called him on the phone to chat (because I was tired, and not in the mood for typing on the instant messenger), he dropped the word “spendy” on me. The neat thing about it is that I didn’t even notice it, delete duplicates because the second he said it, I knew exactly what he was talking about. It’s not until years later, when I heard this episode, that it struck me that nobody else in my life used that word except other Portalnders.

    EDIT: I absolutely love “New-Coked”. Again, it’s one of those terms, that when you say it, everyone around you instantly gets it. Oopsgraded had me giggling my diet coke into my nasal passages on the subway. Not a comfortable moment.

    RE: Geek vs Nerd. From my perspective, a geek is generally one who’s more on the technical side, and sort of single-minded in her or his love for whatever the subject may be. A nerd, on the other hand, just likes learning new things, regardless of the venue. I’d say it’s a generalist versus specialist sort of thing. Nerds love knowledge for its own sake; geeks love knowledge about their subject, and/or range of subjects (there’s some kind of unholy trinity of Ren Faire, D&D, and a love for pictures of cats), to the exclusion of other knowledge. I’m only speaking from my own understanding of it.

    PS I’m a nerd.


    Well I Know That But For The Satisfaction I Saw The Posts!!!!

  21. Rebekah says:

    My grandmother and mother told me that the stuff in my eyes in the morning was called “sleepy seeds.” It was planted there by the sandman to make sure I had a good sleep throughout the night. I remember watching from the window, scared of this little imp who would come to put dirt in my eyes while I dozed!

  22. Ron Draney says:

    We can now look forward to a generation of kids terrified of the glowing green butterfly in the Lunesta ads, who comes in the night to sap the life force from people in their beds.

  23. Heimhenge says:

    Yeah, I’d bet that butterfly is a bit spooky to some young kids. And what about the “mixed message” of the main drug ad content showing happy people being helped by the med, while some narrator (in ominous undertones) explains all the risks and bad side effects? We adults know that’s something the FDA and/or FTC forces the advertisers to do. But I gotta wonder what kinda message that sends to a young kid?

    It’s a whole nuther level from the “professional driver closed course” fine print that flashes on the bottom of the screen during car ads. Most people never see the disclaimer because the ad itself is so cleverly distracting. And when you DO see it, without a DVR to hit pause, there’s no frikkin’ way you have time to read all that fine print, which isn’t even legible unless you have about a 60″ screen.

  24. telemath says:

    I love the final admonition to “ask your doctor if X is right for you.”

    “Hi, Doc. I feel fine, but my TV says I need to ask you about these medications…”

  25. spieramico says:

    EmmettRedd said:

    I remember when I was about 6 that on several occasions my eyes would be glued shut upon awakening. My mother called it “matter” as she used a warm washcloth to open my eyes. This may be an extreme form of “sleepy dust”.

    We grew up calling them “sleepy seeds”

  26. Lew Kaye-Skinner says:

    Re place names for people and re word nerds, is Grant a Lexiconian? (Sorry this is late, I just listened to the podcast finally today.)

  27. echorad says:

    Perhaps I heard incorrectly, but did yoou guys mention in this episode that you would put up a link to a list of toponyms? Many thanks for your excellent work!!

  28. Kevin L. says:

    Instead of “downgrade” (which has a firmly established different meaning), “oopsgrade” (which I find too cute), or “newcoked” (which surely dates the user), I suggest using the existing word “retrograde” which means moving backwards.

  29. deaconB says:

    Heimhenge said
    I’ve been an Arizonan since 1978, and first heard the term “Zonie” or “Zony” (not sure if there is an official spelling) used in a derogatory sense by Californians (are they “Fornies”) for exactly that reason.

    Never heard of Fornies, but only Californios and Californicators.

    About 1972 or 1973, there was a tongue-in-cheek movement to build a tall fence along the Toledo Strip, because so many Ohio high school football heroes were attending college in Ann Arbor.  I was commuting from Ohio to Indiana at the time, and around the break table, as we were discussing the “issue” I pointed out that Michigan’s beloved football coach. Bo Shembechler, come from Ohio State, but so did Indiana’s favorite basketball coach, Bobby Knight.  I was quickly informed that “buckeye” was defined in the dictionary as a nut of no known use.

  30. EmmettRedd says:

    Windows 8 admitted to being newcoked Windows?

  31. AKMason says:

    Growing up in Ohio, we always called the stuff in our eyes in the morning “sleep”, but have also used eye booger on occasion (kids seem to prefer it). I just heard it referred to as “sleep crumbs” in the book The Boy Who Loved Words, which I really like and may adopt myself.

  32. deaconB says:

    I just realized that, to me, wiping sleep from your eyes means getting rid of the stuff while it is a thick fluid, and if the stuff has solidified, it’s shameful that you didn’t attend to your toilet while going to the bathroom, and you don’t need words for that which can never be talked about.  I, for one, would never admit to “crumbles” in my eyes.

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