Everybody has a nickname, and there’s usually a story to go with it. Martha and Grant reveal their own nicknames and the stories behind them. Also, is the expression “heebie-jeebies” anti-Semitic? And is there a better word than “retiree” for someone who moves on from a job late in life?

This episode originally aired April 5, 2008. Listen here:

Download the MP3 here (23.5 MB).

To be automatically notified when audio is available, subscribe to the podcast using iTunes or another podcatching program.

Speaking of nicknames, the word “nickname” has an interesting etymology. It’s an example of a word formed by what linguists call “misdivision.” More here. If you have a nickname you’d like to share (and hey, let’s keep it clean, folks!), tell us about it in our discussion forum!

On to our callers:

A cantor from a synagogue in Nyack, New York, says she’s fond of the expression “the heebie-jeebies” but recently began worrying that it might be anti-Semitic. Did the term “heebie-jeebies” originate as a slur against Jews? By the way, the hosts mention a cartoon with the earliest known use of the term. You can see it here.

An adult caller from Phoenix is stung by the memory of losing an elementary school spelling bee when he misspelled the word “dilemma.” He insists that his teachers taught him that the word contains a silent “n.” After all these years, he’s still trying to find out whether “dilemna” is an acceptable spelling.

Recently we discussed the lack of a word in English for the act of trying to do in your offline life something you can only do on a computer, like expecting spellcheck to kick in if you’re scribbling a grocery list, for example. The hosts share suggestions emailed by listeners. How about “e-flex”? Or might “déjà undo” do?

Quiz Guy John Chaneski presents a puzzle about homophones, in this case, words that sound just like participles that have lost their final “g,” like “button” and “buttin’.” The first clue: “Picture Vladimir Putin trying to catch a departing bus.”

A woman and her boss want to resolve a dispute over the words “reoccuring” and “recurring.” Which is correct if you’re talking about something that happens again and again? Grant explains that there is indeed a difference between the two words—and that one of them is almost always the right choice, particularly in the world of business.

When a proper Southern lady fans herself and exclaims, “I do believe I have the vapors,” what vapors is she talking about, exactly? A caller from Austin, Texas wants to know the origin of this term. Just how did it come to apply to a whole range of things, from being flustered all the way to more serious maladies such as depression and hypochondria?

A former sociology professor shares a peeve about the language of political pundits: He’s irked when they say a candidate wants to “replicate” or “duplicate” his win. The professor explains why he thinks they should eschew those words and instead opt for “repeat.”

Cities have nicknames as well, including “Sacratomato” and “Lousyville.” Do you have a better city nickname? Let’s hear it.

This week’s “Slang This!” contestant is from Esquimalt, British Columbia. She tries to guess the meaning of the slang terms “white hat” and “necklace light.” And no, the latter has nothing to do with a “Frankenstein flash.”

A husband and wife are retiring after many years on the job. But they’re keeping their options open for future employment, and don’t want to be called “retirees.” The word “retirees” isn’t enough to connote the more “dynamic and open-ended” way of living they’re anticipating, nor does it take into account the possibility that they might continue to do some kind of paying work. How about “rehirees”? Or . . . ?

What’s the nickname for your hometown newspaper? Do share by emailing us.

A Kentucky listener and her husband wonder about the proper meaning of the word “everloving.” Sometimes they hear it used to express frustration, as in, “Why won’t he pass the everloving basketball?”, but other times they hear it used more positively, as in, “I just want to get in my everloving bed and sleep!” Grant answers her everloving question.

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54 Responses

  1. Dale says:

    For the question on air this week about an alternate word for the younger retired folks.

    Benemployment – bene; as in good
    Re employment
    De-employment

    Career deployment/ careedeployment
    Carefree employment, carefree deployment

    Life alignment, lifeoyment, lifenjoyment
    Life designment

  2. Emmett Redd says:

    Several small towns in southwest Missouri have nicknames. In the text below, the official name will be in parenthesis.

    My brother lives in Pin Hook (Pleasant Hope).

    I bought my gas heating stove in Dogtown (March).

    Highway 32 goes through Pig Eye (Long Lane).

    My wife’s childhood friend lives in Hog Eye (Charity).

    I cannot think of any others right now, but a Professor at my alma mater, Dr. Jerry (Gerald Leonard) Cohen has written books about Missouri Place Names. He may have some nicknames in there as well.

    Emmett Redd

  3. Bud Sonka says:

    “Dilemna” is a Latin word which came up frequently in my Latin readings in high
    school. That is the best explanation have for my lifelong belief that the
    English word dilemma is a misspelling. My wife feels that same way, and she is
    a meticulous speller. Perhaps this is a generational quirk peculiar to those
    of us who long ago loved or labored through our required Latin classes.

  4. Karen says:

    I was very excited to hear the discussion on the spelling of dilemma. I, too, was eliminated from a 1970s spelling bee after spelling dilemma as dilemna. I accepted the correction, but I’ve always wondered why I had been so sure of the way I spelled it. I must have seen it in print that way somewhere. When I told a neighbor, who had won the bee the previous year and represented our region in the national bee, what word I missed, he correctly guessed how I had misspelled it. That made me feel better, and hearing on your show that I have company also makes me feel better even now!

  5. shamuboo says:

    I grew up in central Indiana and pretty much any city south of us we changed its suffix to -tucky. Edinburgh became Edintucky, Bargersville became Bargertucky etc. It was meant to imply the (ahem) bucolic nature of these locales. In urban circles, Indianapolis is known as Naptown. This is often a more accurate nickname than any of would like to admit.

  6. Software Poet says:

    A couple of ideas for the state of “not really retired”:

    Renascence: I borrowed this word from one of my favorite Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. I actually thought of renaissance first, but was worried about the confusion with the well-known period of European history that carries that name. Dictionary.com cites one of the meanings of renaissance (lower case initial) as “a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival: a moral renaissance.”

    Some word of phrase that captures the idea of a sabbatical: a period of time in which one removes oneself from one’s job or profession to rest, renew oneself, and perhaps discover new opportunities in which to apply oneself when returning to work.

  7. dilettante says:

    Dilemna: It was good enough for Mrs. Micawber and Robinson Crusoe

  8. Jacques says:

    Funny that the “dilemma/dilemna” discussion came up. I was planning to post about this one over the last few days.

    In a previous life, I was a proofreader for newspaper ads, and one particular ad contained this word. My supervisor (who created the ad) used “dilemma”, and I corrected it. She called me on it, and went by the dictionary.com spelling, which is of course, “dilemma”. To this day, I still feel I am correct.

    So for the past few years (yes, I obsess), I have been wracking my mind trying to think of the word I must have been confusing with “dilemna”. The only word I have been able to come up with is “condemn”. Whie it has the same “emn” grouping, and the same silent-n pronunciation, I never felt as though this was the word I was looking for.

    So it’s very reassuring to hear that others have had this same dilemna as I. ;-)

    Oh, in addition (upon hearing the remainder of the episode), the newspaper was the Daily Union Democrat, or DUD.

  9. Gulliver says:

    Like the “Dilemna Dilemma” caller I was taught the “silent n” spelling in grade school. There’s a part of me that still thinks that’s correct — a part of me that is still sulking about Martha laughing out loud over this spelling. (I’m sure I’ll get over it. Eventually.)

  10. thomkat4 says:

    What about “column”? Newspaper talk, even.

  11. Jeannine says:

    I have a suggestion for Steve for his career transition: “Decelerate”. As in, he is no longer moving full speed ahead, but he also hasn’t stopped.

  12. Kevin Way says:

    I have to pick some nits with your Slang This quiz this week.

    You said “Once the white hat set up the honeypot computer, all the script kiddies and wannabe hackers attacked it, that’s how he figured out how they operated.”

    This initial sentence isn’t bad. “honeypot computer” is a somewhat awkward construction, much like if you said “pick-up truck automobile”. The word computer is extraneous.

    My more significant criticism is for your definition, “a computing expert who tries to catch hackers and online criminals.” In fact a “white hat” is simply a security expert who applies his expertise for good instead of evil.

    This usually means that the “white hat” is attempting to find and protect vulnerabilities (much like a sheriff), but these white hats are extremely unlikely to care who it is that is attempting to break in, nor are they likely to try to catch them.

  13. Wordsmith says:

    I think “everloving” is a double-euphemism which can be explained as follows: “everloving” > “motherloving” > “motherf-cking”. I could be wrong, though. But I think that when you’re too tired for politeness you may love your bed but you’re like, “YAWN! I’m gonna get in my damn bed and sleep…” I’ve even heard a biker refer to his Harley as “my goddamn motorcycle”; if he really loved it would he consider it goddamned? … Hm.

    Man, I love English…

  14. “Honeypot computer” is a somewhat awkward construction, much like if you said “pick-up truck automobile”. The word computer is extraneous.

    Kevin, I worked in IT for more than 15 years for a variety of companies big and small here in New York City and I know of at least two other kinds of “honeypots”: honeypot networks and honeypot routers. So, the specification of “computer” was necessary to make clear what I was talking about.

    My more significant criticism is for your definition, “a computing expert who tries to catch hackers and online criminals.” In fact a “white hat” is simply a security expert who applies his expertise for good instead of evil. This usually means that the “white hat” is attempting to find and protect vulnerabilities (much like a sheriff), but these white hats are extremely unlikely to care who it is that is attempting to break in, nor are they likely to try to catch them.

    In my experience, “white hats” take on a variety of tinges and shades. Some indeed are as you describe, but some are more as I described it. I think my definition is more encompassing of the many types and was, therefore, more appropriate for the slang quiz.

  15. James says:

    Nicknames, let me count the ways.
    I grew up in a family with nicknames for everyone. My father (James Euel) was Porky, mom(Vileta Anise) was Bug (Aunt Bug to all of the nieces and nephews, mama Bug to the grandkids), my sister Christy was Blackout and my sister Gail became the “Little Gray Haired Lady” at Auburn University.
    My mother’s side of the family her brothers and sister were as follows: Winfred Quentin was Bill, Louise was Lits, Larkin Johnson was Jay, William Elisha was Pete, and Harvey Lee was “Buddy Pat”
    My dad’s side of the family only the brothers had nicknames, his sister was spared. Ulyess Virgil became Red and Howard Eugene was always Bud to me.
    Now me, being named after my father, James Euel, Jr. the family needed a nickname for me, but our family doctor came up with one before I was born. He was a huge fan of the comic strip Bringing up Father, with its characters: Maggie and Jiggs. Since they did not know what sex I was to be, Maggie was out. Our doctor started calling me Jiggs before I was born and it stuck. My family, my friends from high school, fraternity brothers and fellow Kiwanis members call me that.

    Also, you mentioned nicknames of cities where we lived. Among the ones where I’ve lived are as follows:
    Birmingham, AL – Magic City Huntsville, AL – Rocket City USA Nashville, TN – Music City
    Roanoke, VA – Star City Columbus, MS – Possum Town Tuscaloosa, AL – T’Town
    Memphis, TN – Blues City Louisville, KY – Lou-a-val Elizabethtown, KY – E’town
    Blacksburg, VA – Hokie Town Christiansburg, VA – C’burg

    Newspapers
    Columbus, MS has the Commercial Dispatch is known ad the Commercial Disgrace.
    In Blacksburg, VA and Christiansburg, VA I worked for a Newspaper company.

    James E. “Jiggs” Haynes

  16. Kevin Way says:

    Perhaps it’s possible to run a honeypot that consists of a single computer, but it’s hard to see how. Generally speaking the honeypot will consist at a minimum of a target (possibly a computer), a specially configured router/switch/bridge, and a second machine which analyzes the traffic flows that are sent from the upstream networking device.

    I’ll grant that the target computer in such a setup could be called a “the honeypot computer” but it’s more than just that computer that makes the analysis possible, and that whole system is generally referred to as “the honeypot”.

    As for the second item, I continue to think it was a mischaracterization of the goals of a “white hat”. In my experience “white hats” do the following as common tasks:

    • Search security infrastructures for known vulnerabilities
    • Install honeypots and tripwires to watch for invasion through unknown means
    • Test security infrastructures, to see if the results are in line with expectations
    • Do basic security research to find possible improvements (fixed bugs, better processes, etc.)

    I have never in my life met a “white hat” whose actual job involved attempting to track down the specific individuals behind an attack and “catch” them, or otherwise hold them to justice, but your definition makes it sound like that is the most common task.

    As such, we’ll have to agree to disagree, but I wanted to get my objections and proposed clarifications noted someplace near your proposed definitions.

  17. maggielou42 says:

    Regarding nicknames of things, I grew up in Kansas City. I was born on the Missouri side, but lived on the Kansas side, so we used to always say, “I was born in Misery,” which drives many Missourians nuts.

    I also went to school in Manhattan, KS, which is the “Little Apple” (as opposed to the “Big Apple” in New York), but my husband and I would always put “Manhappiness” for our return address on letters.

    The last on I wanted to mention is the newspapers. I currently live near Dallas, TX and the (sort-of) rival paper in Fort Worth is the Star-Telegram. We like to call it the Startle-Gram, which just makes me giggle, but I’ve now heard other people use that nickname as well.

  18. Kent says:

    With regard to the origin of “Heebie Jeebies” I would like to point out a source that might escape word smiths, but is quite familiar to the jazz-babies in your audience. Namely, a discography.

    Many Dixieland bands and swing orchestras have recorded the tune “Heebie Jeebies” but the earliest recording I have is of the Louis Armstrong Hot Five dixieland group dated 26 February 1926.

    Heebie-jeebies was a familiar expression in Nawlins during the 1920′s, lending further credence to the idea that it is NOT an anti-Semitic expression and might have originated in the African-American or Creole communities of New Orleans at the dawn of the Jazz Age.

  19. Chris Mitchell says:

    Another term for a person who is minimizing the role work plays in his life is a “downshifter”. The process is known as “downshifting”.

  20. LOL, Gulliver! (And I’m laughing WITH you AT myself, mind you, because I’ve just been amazed at how many people have called and written to say that they, too, were taught to spell the word with an “n.” It’s fascinating. As they say in academia, “Further investigation is needed.”)

  21. Wordsmith says:

    FYI, misdivision is usually called metanalysis in linguistics.

  22. janus says:

    I wrote an email about this before I got to the end of the show and found out there was a discussion forum, but I had associated the vapors with the miasma theory of disease which held that disease was carried by bad smells, vapors, and mist. This was what prompted people to avoid the night air. Of course the association with misty areas producing disease isn’t unreasonable since those would be areas where stagnant water might collect as well.

    I’m not sure why it would be more prevalent in the South.

    This was all before germ theory came into prevalence.

  23. Kaa says:

    Sure, people and cities may have nicknames, but how many of us have purposefully mispronounced or mangled the names of businesses in a derogatory way to express our displeasure?

    For instance:

    Home Depot => Home Despot
    Best Buy => Worst Lie
    Circuit City => Shircuit Sh**ty
    Radio Shack => Rat Shack or Radio Snack
    Whole Foods => Wh**e Foods
    Comcast => Comcr*p

    Or even with places that we like, my friends and I often just do it for the sake of doing it, and it seems to be mostly restaurants.

    McDonalds => McDoggies
    Pizza Hut => Pizza Sl*t
    O’Charlie’s => O’Chuckie’s
    Logan’s (or Texas) Roadhouse => Roadho’ (because it shows up as “ROADHO” on your credit card receipt)

    And we also tend to genericize chains into one long word that’s partially all of them:

    WalDalton-Borders & Noble-A-Million

    And let’s not forget things like “EverCrack” for “EverQuest.”

    Nicknames ABOUND. :)

  24. Wordsmith says:

    Kaa said:
    WalDalton-Borders & Noble-A-Million

    Reminds me of a music course titled “Babrarchtohmsk” which taught about Bach, Brahms, and Bartok in one package.

    janus said:
    I had associated the vapors with the miasma theory of disease which held that disease was carried by bad smells, vapors, and mist. This was what prompted people to avoid the night air.

    janus, that actually makes sense. I had a similar association of vapors with illness; in this case, giddiness. Your comment also makes me think of malaria as coming from “mal” (bad) and “aria” (air) which attempted to explain the cause of this malady originating from bad air around swamps and marshes.

    Re: the “retiree” conundrum: how ’bout just saying the simple truth “we’re moving on”? (Sorry if that was no help… :( )

    I, too, was once victim of the “Dilemna Dilemma”, which word I now spell “dilemma”. Victimn no longer! ;) — OK, that was a little too silly. :)

  25. cmanb says:

    Wordsmith said:

    Kaa said:
    WalDalton-Borders & Noble-A-Million

    Reminds me of a music course titled “Babrarchtohmsk” which taught about Bach, Brahms, and Bartok in one package.


    Which in turn sounds like the amalgamation of all those barely distinguishable restaurant chains: T.G.I. Chilibees.

  26. Wordsmith says:

    What would be awesome is if they truely were amalgamated in the sense of what they served, etc.

    A: “Do you want to go to T.G.I.F.’s?”
    B: “Hmm. Well, I was kind of thinking of Chilis.”
    C: “How about Applebee’s?”
    D: (out of nowhere, some random spokesman pops up) “Guys, why go to one when you can go to all of them?”
    ABC: (incredulously) “Whaaaat?”
    D: “That’s right, folks! All of your favorite family restaurants can now be found in your favorite restaurant! T.G.I. Chilibees!”, etc., etc., etc.

  27. Alysa says:

    Ideas for words instead of retiring:

    refreshing
    renewing
    rejuvenating

  28. Wordsmith says:

    Sounds like a great line of hair/skin products.

  29. felixblackcat says:

    Wordsmith said:

    What would be awesome is if they truely were amalgamated in the sense of what they served, etc.

    A: “Do you want to go to T.G.I.F.’s?”
    B: “Hmm. Well, I was kind of thinking of Chilis.”
    C: “How about Applebee’s?”
    D: (out of nowhere, some random spokesman pops up) “Guys, why go to one when you can go to all of them?”
    ABC: (incredulously) “Whaaaat?”
    D: “That’s right, folks! All of your favorite family restaurants can now be found in your favorite restaurant! T.G.I. Chilibees!”, etc., etc., etc.


    To me, that sounds much better than certain combinations of Yum! Brands fast food chains I’ve seen. The KFC / Taco Bell combination seems unappealing enough to me, but there’s even KFC / Long John Silver’s combinations!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Kfc-longjohnsilvers.jpg
    I think a TB/LJS combination would be even more unappetizing.

    Considering all the chains Yum! Brands runs, perhaps we could start seeing all-in-one, Wal-Mart-like “big box” fast-food joints?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yum%21_Brands
    I guess we have mall food courts, but that’s not really the same thing, since that’s essentially a fast food mall of separate “restaurants” rather than one big all-encompassing restaurant.

    I guess, though, that more general restaurants (like T.G.I. Chilibees) serve all sorts of things like this, so perhaps it’s the fast food angle (along with the spotty history of fast food joints, such as the famously rat-infested KFC / Taco Bell in NYC a while back) that really makes me cringe about these combinations…

  30. Zorknot says:

    I just paused listening this episode to check out the Wordsmart webpage. Shouldn’t someone tell them how to spell “phenomenon?”

    In other news, I’m a bit baffled by the whole “dilemma” issue. The way I understood it a logical argument or a minor mathematical proof was a lemma, and so when there were two of them as in two arguments that you had to or two possible solutions that both have their problems, it was a DIlemma. I can’t see where the “n” would pop up at all. What’s the greek/latin spelling of lemma? Is there an “n” sound in the original language or something?

  31. Wordsmith says:

    Maybe such corporate combinations could yield “very-fast-food” restaurants…

    BTW, I’m glad you didn’t bring up JITB or Denny’s. shudder!

  32. Thanks, Zorknot, we’ll let Wordsmart know. Even the best of us make errors.

  33. Kevin Way says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    “Honeypot computer” is a somewhat awkward construction, much like if you said “pick-up truck automobile”. The word computer is extraneous.

    Kevin, I worked in IT for more than 15 years for a variety of companies big and small here in New York City and I know of at least two other kinds of “honeypots”: honeypot networks and honeypot routers. So, the specification of “computer” was necessary to make clear what I was talking about.

    The first part of your answer has been bothering me for quite some time now. I wouldn’t mind a difference of opinion, but your argument by authority just bugged the heck out of me, and left me unable to enjoy the newer episodes.

    I know that a counter-argument by authority would be pointless, so I decided that I would do some research and post the results, whether they favored my original argument or not.

    You claim that “honeypot computer” is an appropriate construction in your sentence, whereas I claim that “honeypot” is the correct term for your usage. I figured that an appropriate way to investigate this would be to search for both terms against computer security mailing list archives.

    The first site I’m testing is securityfocus.com, which houses the well-known. BUGTRAQ archives.
    1,380 results from securityfocus.com for honeypot.
    1 result from securityfocus.com for “honeypot computer”

    The single usage of “honeypot computer” is as I described in my previous rebuttal, meaning a computer that has been allowed to be authorized and cannot be trusted. (The value of the research being done external to that computer, in the proper honeypot.)

    The second site I’m testing is seclists.org, which houses the Full Disclosure mailing list archives.
    2,590 results from seclists.org for honeypot
    6 results from seclists.org for “honeypot computer”

    4 of those results do not actually include the phrase “honeypot computer”. Two use the term fairly similarly to how you used it.

    The third site I’m testing is lists.grok.co.uk which contains archives of Aleph One’s original Full-Disclosure list.
    187 results from lists.grok.org.uk for honeypot
    No results for “honeypot computer”

    I think that offers fairly conclusive evidence that your example of “honeypot computer” was, at the very best, using the term in a manner that is several orders of magnitude less common than “honeypot”.

    As for your continued defense of “white hat” meaning somebody who attempts to “catch” hackers, I continue to believe that the only possible way that your definition is accurate is if you define catch to mean “stop”, instead of the more common usage meaning “capture” or “intercept and hold”.

    In that case you would simply be guilty of sloppy word use in a definition, something that would surely happen to me as well, if I had a weekly radio show. Unfortunately, that doesn’t explain your continued defense of your original definition.

    As such, I’ll posit the question, can you cite any evidence to back up your claim, or are we simply supposed to accept it on the basis that you worked in the IT industry for 15 years.

    I’m hoping you have a reply that’s stronger than your original argument. The original “I worked in the IT industry for 15 years” was incredibly insulting, especially since it appears clear that you were unambiguously incorrect, and my credentials on that matter are almost certainly as strong or stronger than yours. (Seriously, your appeal to authority accomplished nothing except making me think that I was stupid for having ever respected you.)

  34. Kevin, you’re peeved at my flaunting my authority, but I don’t know what to tell you about that. I’ve got the authority. I didn’t work my way up to IT director with my good looks. These days I keep my guns in their holsters as I concentrate on matters linguistic and lexicographical, but my skills haven’t dulled enough to make the kind of mistake you think I’ve made.

    In any case, you still come up short of proving your bill.

    Your first mistake was proving me right even within your search’s limited scope. Your argument was that “honeypot computer” was awkward. My point was that, awkward or not, the term is in use. In your post above, you have now shown that the terms are indeed in use. Yes, they are less common, but they’re real. They exist. Awkwardness has nothing to do with it. You’ve scored a home goal in my favor.

    From a lexicographical standpoint, your second mistake is to limit your search to a tiny corpus. In statistical terms, your sample size is too small. When lexicographers search for the existence, meaning, and history of words, we search trillions of words. Trillions. You’ve searched a small percentage of that.

    We also search across domains, including within the popular press, to show that a word has circulated. If we just barely scratch the surface and search Lexis Nexis, Factiva, Google Books, and Google Groups, we find even more uses of “honeypot computer,” “honepot network,” and “honeypot router.” Even a bare Google search will return some of each.

    So, while I appreciate that you care enough to argue your point, Kevin, I can’t agree with you any more now than I could before. The terms exist and they are in use.

  35. Bill 5 says:

    Nicknames!

    Grant, in your 4/5 show, you talked about coming from St Louis, but not knowing any nicknames for it.

    Why, Mound City, of course! (Despite the fact that all of the hundreds of Indian mounds in the city, except one, were levelled in the 1800s.)

    When I double-checked Wikipedia, it reminded me that it is also the Gateway City (or Gateway to the West).

    I always thought that was just an advertising slogan from the people who wanted to sell the Arch, but I guess it deserves the Gateway moniker too. It was, of course, the East-West railroad gateway, starting with the 1857 Eads Bridge, where it was the first non-ferry crossing of the Mississippi, and there are hundreds of miles of track in marshalling yards on both sides of the river. It was also the gateway for Lewis & Clark and all those 1840s+ wagon trains. (Henry Shaw, of St Louis’s Shaw Arboretum, etc., made his coin selling shovels to most every wagon that went west.)

    I lived just south of the town of Des Peres, Missouri. For us, it didn’t mean the Catholic fathers, for which the River des Peres was named. Rather, we knew those long hot summer days as
    Despair in Misery

    And, Martha, when I went to college in West Lafayette, Indiana, we had lots of students up from Louisville. We were taught to pronounce it what they considered “properly”. Without vowels, it’s nearly a nickname — “LLVLL”. I like it a lot — just “LLLL” with a little lip flip in the middle.

    My favorite personal nickname is Bay Buchanan (whose older sibling couldn’t say the second syllable of “baby”, and she became the “Bay”). But I want to divide personal “nicknames” into two words. A nickname should be something that the others made up for you, like Bay. But I would distinguish something standard that derives from your formal name, like Bill for William. Bill feels more like an inherent variation of the name, not a “nick” name. But what do you call that (besides nickname)?

  36. Kevin Way says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    Kevin, you’re peeved at my flaunting my authority, but I don’t know what to tell you about that. I’ve got the authority. I didn’t work my way up to IT director with my good looks.


    The problem wasn’t that you flaunted your authority, it was that you cited it as your primary evidence. The fact that you’ve done so again in your reply (this time dropping your title, and implying that it’s superior to what I have accomplished) is rude, dismissive and insulting. It’s not conducive to discussion, debate, or resolution. Frankly, it’s as though you’re trying to “win” the conversation.

    It’s also funny, because I have excellent credentials. I’ve refrained from citing my work experience and professional references because I don’t believe that my personal experience has any bearing on my correctness. I take a consensus-based approach to vocabulary, such that if a majority of people believe a term to be correct it is correct. And if a majority eschew usage of a term, that perhaps I should follow suit.

    I’d be very interested in seeing the results of “proper” lexicographical research, as I fully admit that I’m not a lexicographer. My use of three major security related mailing list archives was designed to capture a snapshot of how security professionals use the terms. I knew it wouldn’t be completely accurate, but I thought that 1500:1 usage ratio would indicate that your use of the additional “computer” was in fact unnecessary and awkward, though you are correct that I did prove that there are at least 3 public usages of the term.

    The reason I care is because your show introduces large numbers of people to these words, and as such it seems that some significant care should be taken to ensure that they come away knowing the common usage and meaning of the terms. It seems strange and misguided to teach them usage patterns that are several orders of magnitude less common, even if they have been used several times.

    That said, it’s clear you believe that it’s acceptable to teach least-common usages, and introduce them with an implication that they are primary definitions. Perhaps this is really where our split lies.

    After all, this split explains your adherence to your strange definition of “white hat” as well, in which the “white hats” are attempting to catch hackers, rather than attempting to stop them, monitor them or analyze their actions. I’m sure that there are a few “white hat” hackers who will attempt to identify the individuals behind attacks. Similarly, I’m absolutely certain that there are several orders of magnitude more “white hat” hackers who do not “catch” hackers.

    I think it’s strange and silly to teach these minor cases in a context that implies dominant usage, especially when the entertainment value would not be diminished by the increased accuracy. It’s clear you disagree.

    Perhaps you’ll continue to disagree, but it’d be nice if you wouldn’t start off your rebuttals with a haughty assumption that you’re better than me. Even if it were true, it would have no bearing on your correctness.

  37. Wordsmith says:

    Grant, I have some terrible news: Kevin has a point.

    I, myself, have had some experience as a lexicographer and I cringe at each mistake I make, but I make a point not to cover it up.

    I think Kevin’s main point here is that of frequency vs. commonness. An IT word may be common in San F. but not have much currency outside of that. True, many terms do originate there but whether or not they take hold is something that can’t be guessed. If your knowledge of “white hat” and “honeypot computer” is canonical (i.e., orthodox) then it could be that those two terms have been supplanted by either simpler ones or a different nuance of meaning.

    Kevin really made a very good point when he said:

    I’ve refrained from citing my work experience and professional references because I don’t believe that my personal experience has any bearing on my correctness.

    If we could reach a consensus on which terms have more currency than the other in IT, that would be a boon to both sides of the argument. Since, it’s not about being right, it’s about being open to and aware of the fluxes to which language (esp. jargon) is inevitably prone.

  38. Glenn Peters says:

    Sigh. I’d stopped following this forum when it switched to the new format. (Oh no! Math problems!)

    Now that I’m trying to follow the discussions again, I’m finding a disturbing volume of… argument, for lack of a better word. I wonder if I should bother to keep reading if this is mainly what I’m going to get.

  39. Wordsmith said: I, myself, have had some experience as a lexicographer and I cringe at each mistake I make, but I make a point not to cover it up.

    Wordsmith, there’s no coverup. It wasn’t a mistake. It was a remark based upon personal experience that did not match the experience of someone else.

    Kevin Way said: It seems strange and misguided to teach them usage patterns that are several orders of magnitude less common, even if they have been used several times.

    A rare usage is no less a word or term than a common one. I specialize, in fact, in outliers: slang and new words.

    At this point, perhaps this conversation should end. You had a dispute about usage, I responded in kind, and we’ve both said our pieces twice over. No ground is being gained. Okay?

    Greyaenigma said: Now that I’m trying to follow the discussions again, I’m finding a disturbing volume of… argument, for lack of a better word. I wonder if I should bother to keep reading if this is mainly what I’m going to get.

    I hope you stay, Greyaenigma. I believe that conversation—even spirited conversation—about language is a profitable exercise. In many cases, I think it is more important than any possible resolution because it lays bare differences in opinion that might not otherwise be known. Many people might now see Kevin’s argument and say, “You know, I hadn’t thought of that. He has a point.” And some others might see mine and say, “I can see how that makes sense.” The debate is the thing here more than right or wrong and we wouldn’t want anything less than everyone giving their utmost when trying to persuade others, as long as the persuasion is polite and civil, as Kevin’s has been. So, do please stick around and join in. Wordsmith and others are good role models for behavior here: informed, humorous, and on-topic.

  40. Glenn Peters says:

    Oh, I don’t mind debate, I miss good debate. It’s the tone that keeps creeping into things that I find disturbing.

  41. Wordsmith says:

    Careful, greyaenigma, everyone’s got a tone.

    Whether or not Grant said something less than accurate will not be resolved here. So, folks—seriously—let’s get on with it!… :)

  42. Bill 5 says:

    And I suffixed the thread thinking THAT debate had ended, but got buried. C’est la guerre…

  43. Wordsmith says:

    Bill 5 said:
    …[W]hen I went to college in West Lafayette, Indiana, we had lots of students up from Louisville. We were taught to pronounce it what they considered “properly”. Without vowels, it’s nearly a nickname — “LLVLL”. I like it a lot — just “LLLL” with a little lip flip in the middle.

    That’s awesome.

    Also, check this out.

  44. Yes, having grown up there, I’d say “LLVLL” is pretty much correct if you want to sound like a native.

    LLVLL’s an odd mix, though. It was a divided city during the Civil War, and folks in the southern part of the county tend to speak with a MUCH stronger Southern accent than those of us who grew up in the northeast section.

  45. ConstantIrritant says:

    Sorry to comment so late, but I’m working through a backlog of podcasts.

    Glad to see somebody mention the Fort Worth “Startlegram.” My household calls the Dallas paper the “Dallas Morning Snooze.” When we lived in San Diego (aka Sandy Eggo – a waffle pun if I ever heard one) we read the “Onion Trib” instead of the Union Tribune. Other city names: I’ve heard “Indianoplace” for Indianapolis, “Eusless” for Euless (Texas), and “Austintacious” for “Austin, Texas.” I have a terrible time when typing the name of the city where the Alamo is: I can’t stop my fingers in time and usually end up with “San Antonion.”

    - CI

  46. Rachael says:

    Gulliver said:

    Like the “Dilemna Dilemma” caller I was taught the “silent n” spelling in grade school. There’s a part of me that still thinks that’s correct — a part of me that is still sulking about Martha laughing out loud over this spelling. (I’m sure I’ll get over it. Eventually.)


    Yeah, I have to say that I was offended that they laughed at the spelling – I was born in 1976 and was, until today, still under the impression that dilemna was spelled in this manner. I don’t think it indicated any kind of obsession that he wanted to discuss the spelling – the man obviously had a curiosity and came to the alleged experts on the subject of word-related nerdiness for help with his little issue. I think it showed a distinct insensitivity toward the target demographic of this show. But what do I know – I spell dilemna with an “N”.

  47. SaraMS says:

    Galveston, TX is an island to on which is a number of top notch universities.  It is also home to many run down houses, abandoned buildings and unpleasant native inhabitants.  The drive to “civilization” is about 20 minutes, so many of us elect to stay on the island for daily shopping at the Awful-mart (Walmart) here on this prison island of Galvetraz.

  48. Monica Sandor says:

    A popular nickname for the Toronto newspaper “The Globe and Mail” (which touts itself as Canada’s ‘national paper’) is “The Mop and Pail”.

    A somewhat local nickname for an institution is for a college in Montreal named “Marianopolis” (actually this is the Latin form of the original French name for Montreal – Ville Marie, city of Mary): students have lovignly referred to it as “Mary monotonous”.

  49. Gulliver and Rachael: My apologies — I only just now caught up with this thread. Clearly that laugh that you heard was the laughter of ignorance. I honestly had never heard that spelling before and saw no evidence from a quick look at several dictionaries that “dilemna” was ever accepted. It appears that’s not the case, at least not according to the many people who’ve since written us to say that it was definitely the way they were taught as well! We were fascinated by this. Just goes to show that we can all learn something from each other, which is one of the reasons we love hearing from folks who listen to the show.

    Question: Were you also taught that dilemma/dilemna meant specifically “a situation in which one has to choose between two things” or more generally “a situation in which one has to make some kind of choice”?

  50. imlj says:

    ConstantIrritant said:

    “Sorry to comment so late, but I’m working through a backlog of podcasts…”

    - CI


    I just discovered A Way with Words by way of Grant’s “Crash Blossoms” piece in the NYT (I laughed so hard, I cried) and am thrilled. Talk about working through a backlog, ConstantIrritant – I’ve got a couple years’ worth to catch up on!

    Re: nicknames, it’s rather timely for me to have found the “Nicknames” episode since I wrote about this very topic on my blog a few days ago. I get a kick out of the ones that I find to be very creative, funny, and/or apropos (e.g. “Dead Lobster” for the restaurant chain), and I often marvel at the spontaneity with which they can come about. Then there are the ones that, upon first hearing them, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or feel offended, e.g. an area of Atlanta that has a high concentration of Asian restaurants, in and around Chamblee-Tucker Rd – is known as “Chambodia.” (I got over it.)

    Thanks, Grant and Martha, for your terrific shows. You have a new and devoted fan.

  51. Sandy says:

    In response to the new term for retirement: When I was studying in Spain, I lived with a Spanish family and my pseudo “Spanish father” was a recently retired man. When I asked what he did for a living, he responded with “Estoy jubilado.” I was confused, having never heard the term, but clearly the word looks a lot like “jubilant.” Finally he explained that he didn’t work anymore, and I thought the irony of being “jubilant” in retirement was just awesome.

    Also, I wanted to mention something about the “white hat” slang question… I have heard the term “white hat hacking” many times before in reference to someone who breaks into a computer system in some way and then later on alerts the administrator as to how they did it in order to help them secure their system better. I was under the impression that this wasn’t exactly the goal in the first place though, and more of a courtesy (and a personal challenge)… more like someone letting the shopkeep know that the bathroom is out of toilet paper after leaving the restroom (I doubt there are too many people that scope out establishments to track down empty toilet paper rolls). Just my two cents!

  52. EmmettRedd says:

    In response to the new term for retirement: When I was studying in Spain, I lived with a Spanish family and my pseudo “Spanish father” was a recently retired man. When I asked what he did for a living, he responded with “Estoy jubilado.” I was confused, having never heard the term, but clearly the word looks a lot like “jubilant.” Finally he explained that he didn’t work anymore, and I thought the irony of being “jubilant” in retirement was just awesome.

    Rather than being ironic, might it be referent to the “Year of Jubliee” from the Old Testament when every 50 years the fields were to lie fallow an extra year? Also, debts were to be forgiven, land returned to tribal heirs, and Hebrew slaves were freed.

    Emmett

  53. Docshiva says:

    martha said:

    Yes, having grown up there, I’d say “LLVLL” is pretty much correct if you want to sound like a native.

    LLVLL’s an odd mix, though. It was a divided city during the Civil War, and folks in the southern part of the county tend to speak with a MUCH stronger Southern accent than those of us who grew up in the northeast section.


    My experience was that one could take careful instruction from a native on the proper pronunciation of Llvll, and even with years of tutelage the first public try at pronouncing the name as taught would result in a nod, smile, and correction. I’ve come to believe that every single person there has a specifically nuanced pronunciation. I honestly do think that a non-Louisville accent creates an assumption and perception that the name is being mispronounced. Perhaps I’m being a tad harsh – my pronunciation, a learned northern version, is sometimes considered admirable if imprecise.

  54. Phil says:

    I can’t say as I have ever heard ‘llvll’ or any variation of it. Up here in central Indiana we do get two fairly distinct pronunciations. Among the northerners the city is called ‘Louie-ville’, while those with southern roots call it ‘Lo-ville’.

    and just in case someone is collecting the other nick names that came up.
    Monkey & banana (Muncie, Indiana), is also sometimes called Balltown. (Muncie is the origin of the Ball Jar)
    The area around here is referred to as East Central Indiana. Abbreviated as ECI it is called either ecky or icky dependent on the approval or disapproval of the area at the time.

    The local university, Ball State University (aka testicle tech) has some wonderful nicknames for some of the buildings. The dorms Nunley and LaFollette are called ‘the nunnery’ and ‘laugh-a-lot’. The Student Center, L.A. Pittenger is known as ‘La Pit’. And finally, the signature statue named ‘Beneficence’ is referred to as ‘Bennie’

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