First names like “Patience,” “Hope,” and “Charity” are inspired by worthy qualities. But how about “Be-courteous” or “Hate-evil”? The Puritans sometimes gave children such names hoping that their kids would live up to them. Also, even some feminists are discarding the name “feminist.” Plus, reticent vs. reluctant, sherbet vs. sherbert, mosquitoes vs. lawyers, and a word for that feeling in your toes after a great kiss.
This episode first aired June 1, 2013.
Patience, Hope, and Charity are pretty ambitious things to name your children. But what about Hate-evil, Be-courteous, or Search-the-scriptures? Or Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith? Puritan parents sometimes gave their kids so as to encourage those qualities. They’re called hortatory names, from the Latin for “encourage” or “urge.”
What’s the difference between a mosquito and a lawyer? One’s a bloodsucking parasite, and the other’s an insect. This bait-and-switch joke, like many good paraprosdokians, get their humor by going contrary to our expectations.
A debate has been raging within the Conductors Guild. Should that organization’s name have an apostrophe? Most board members contend that for simplicity and clarity, the name should go without an apostrophe. The hosts concur.
That thing when someone kisses you so well that your toes curl up? It’s called a foot pop.
Is it incorrect to say I could use a drink rather than I want a drink? A California man says his Italian partner claims this use of use is incorrect. It may be a verbal crutch, but it’s still correct English.
Our Quiz Guy Greg Pliska feeds us a game of spoonerisms, or rhyming phrase pairs where the first sounds are swapped. For example, what do a stream of information in 140 characters and a better-tailored suit have in common? Or how about a Michael Lewis book about baseball and a shopping destination for rabbits?
A caller from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, says that cops in Canada will often say to contact them on their shoe phones. The shoe phone comes from Maxwell Smart, the hapless hero of the 1960s sitcom Get Smart, who kept a phone on the sole of his shoe. The phrase has now come to refer to any surreptitiously placed phone.
Before the days of the Square, vendors had to run a credit card through rough, bulky machine called a knucklebuster that had the capacity to do just that.
Order in the court, the monkey wants to speak, the first one to speak is a monkey for a week! This children’s rhyme appears in print in the 1950s, and Israel Kaplan mentions it in When I Was a Boy in Brooklyn, his take on growing up in New York in the 20s and 30s. Many of his rhymes were less tame.
The poet Marianne Moore was once asked to come up with car names for the Ford Motor Company, and if it wasn’t for the genius of their own term, the Edsel, we could’ve been driving around in Resilient Bullets, Varsity Strokes, or Utopian Turtletops.
The term vegan was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, the founder of the U.K. Vegan Society, who insisted that the original pronunciation was VEE-gin. However, some dictionaries now allow for other pronunciations, such as VAY-gin or even VEDJ-in.
If a phone in your shoe or your glasses isn’t futuristic enough for you, check out morphees. They’re smartphones and handheld gaming devices that can bend and change shapes.
Is it time for feminists to ditch the label feminist? Women’s studies professor Abigail Rine is among those struggling with that question. She argues that conversations about feminist issues are often held up by discussions about the label itself, and its negative connotations in particular. Meanwhile, some are trying to replace the word patriarchy with kyriarchy, from the Greek for “lord” or “master” (as in Kyrie Eleison, or “Lord, have mercy) since matters of discrimination don’t just fall along gender lines.
Sherbet is pronounced SHUR-bit. There’s no r before the t, and there’s no need to add one. If it still seems too complicated, you might just order ice cream or sorbet instead.
Noah Webster originally tried changing the spelling of hard ch words to begin with k, as in karacter, but the shift never caught on, as is usually the case with spelling reforms.
Is there a difference between reticent and reluctant? Reticent more specifically involves reluctance to speak–it comes from the Latin root meaning “silent,” and is a relative of the word tacit–whereas you can be reluctant to do anything.
Say you’re a novelist working on your magnum opus. While you’re shuffling through the produce aisle, an idea strikes you and you can’t stop thinking about it. That’s what they call a plot bunny.
Lori from Swansboro, North Carolina, wonders about pure-T mommicked, which in many parts of the South and South Midlands means “confused.” Its sense of “harrass, tease, impose upon” is particularly common in North Carolina. It apparently derives from the verb mammock, meaning to tear into pieces, actually shows up in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The pure-T is a variant of pure-D, a euphemism for pure damned.
This past spring was a cold one, wasn’t it? Some have taken to calling it February 90th.
Photo by waferboard. Used under a Creative Commons license.