What’s the antidote to living in a sound-bite world? How about unwinding with luxuriously expressive prose? Also, the cloak-and-dagger world of editing dictionary entries. Plus, what you might say instead of cursing, and oddball Scrabble words to stump your opponent. And what do you call the shoes sometimes known as sneakers, sneakers, or trainers? Also: feeling owly, jumpin’ Jehoshaphat, finjans and zarfs, catching plagiarism with mountweazels, and the art of long sentences. It’s a larrupin’ show!

This episode first aired Friday, February 10, 2012.

Download the MP3.

 Knitted Cap Names
What do you call a knitted winter cap? A beanie? A toboggan? A stocking hat? Grant’s Great Knitted Hat Survey traces the different terms for this cold weather accessory used across the country.

 Sneakers vs. Tennis Shoes vs. Trainers
How do you refer to rubber-soled athletic shoes? Are they sneakers or tennis shoes? Something else, like trainers? When canvas shoes with soft rubber soles came into use, they were so quiet compared to wood-soled shoes that one could literally sneak about. Outside the Northeast, tennis shoe is the more common term.

 Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat
The biblical king Jehoshaphat is the inspiration for the exclamation “jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!” This alliterative idiom probably arose in the 19th century but was popularized by the cartoon character Yosemite Sam in the 20th century.

 Zarf and Finjan
Looking for some good Scrabble words? Try zarf, a type of cup holder of Arabic origin, or finjan, the small cup that’s held by the zarf.

 Sound Puzzle
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski shows off his acting skills with a word puzzle based on sounds.

 Rubber Match
Tight games often end up at a rubber match, or tiebreaker. Used for a variety of sports and card games, rubber match has been in use since the late 16th century, and seem to have originated in the game of lawn bowling.

 Mountweazels
Do dictionaries deal with copyright infringement or plagiarism when definitions match up between volumes? Since many modern dictionaries derive from the same few tomes, it’s common to see definitions that match. But lexicographers have been known to plant mountweazels, or fake words, to catch serial plagiarizers. One famous mountweazel is the word jungftak.

 Drive Sees
If someone directs you to drive three sees, they’re advising you “drive as far as you can see, then do it two more times.”

 Larrupin’
If something’s larrupin’ good, it’s spankin’ good or thumpin’ good. It comes from the word larrup, a verb meaning “to beat or thrash.”

 Similes
Martha shares a couple of choice similes: “dry as a contribution box” and “plump as a partridge.”

 Value of Long Sentences
Pico Iyer’s piece in the Los Angeles Times is a testament to the value of long sentences in our age of tweets and abbrevs.

 No You Di-int!
Oh no you di-int! The linguistic term for what happens when someone pronounces didn’t as “di-int,” or Martin as Mar-in without the t sound, is called glottalization. Instead of making a t sound with the tongue behind the teeth, a different sound is made farther back in the mouth. John Rickford, professor of linguistics at Stanford University, does a thorough job tracing this phenomenon in the book African-American English: Structure, History, and Use.

 Make vs. Do a Puzzle
When putting together a jigsaw puzzle, do you call it making a puzzle or doing a puzzle? Listeners shared lots of different opinions on the A Way with Words Facebook group.

 You-uns
The Dictionary of American Regional English traces you-uns, a plural form of you, to the Midlands and the Ohio River Valley. But the phrase goes back a while; even Chaucer used something similar.

 Feeling Owly
If someone’s feeling owly, they’re in a grumpy mood and ought to pull up their socks and cut it out. The phrase is chiefly used in the Midwest and Canada and can be found in some dictionaries from Novia Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Some people think owls look grumpy or creepy, although others think they’re adorable. Then there are those who prefer moist owlets.

 E.E. Cummings Love Poem
Martha reads a favorite love poem by E.E. Cummings. (Because you’re going to ask, properly capitalizing his name is the right thing to do.)

Photo by Kyknoord. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

African-American English: Structure, History, and Use edited by Guy Bailey
Dictionary of American Regional English

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Second Cut James Clark Blow Up Presents Exclusive Blend Volume 2 Blow Up
Midnight Cowboy Ferrante and Teicher Midnight Cowboy United Artists Records
Walking Papers Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Buzz Saw The Turtles Buzz Saw 45rpm White Whale
Wilford’s Gone The Blackbyrds The Best of The Blackbyrds BGP Records
Bump The Bump Black Buster Bump The Bump 45rpm Bellaphon
Crazy Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Cause I Need It Dorothy Ashby Dorothy’s Harp Cadet Records
Golden Apples Part III Galt McDermott The Nucleus Kilmarnock
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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11 Responses

  1. michaeleschuler says:

    I wanted to thank you for your reading of the e.e. cummings poem!  I first encountered this poem in the Michael Hedges song of the same name, which (as one would expect) uses this poem as a lyric.  It is on Michael’s Taproot album and, in my opinion, is one of his best pieces that include lyrics (he is much more well-known as an ahead-of-his-time guitarist.)

  2. derocher says:

    Thanks for your show.  As a baseball fan, I had been curious about rubber match as well.  Interesting thought that it could be related to an eraser.  I always figured it had to do with the bouncy nature of rubber.  Like, the match has been bouncing back and forth, and you don’t know which way the next one’s going to go.  Thanks again, love the show.

  3. David says:

    I really enjoyed the show as well.  At then end, “someone feeling some owly” came up in an example usage. I really like this sort of construction.  To me, someone who does not have a flawless education in grammar, the word “some” in this case can both be an adjective, meaning a great deal, or an adverb, meaning a reduced amount.  So this ambiguous usage forms a superposition in my mind between the two possible meanings with the sum of this resulting in a appreciation of the cleverness of the speaker.

  4. Wendy in Oregon says:

    You ask what I call rubber-soled shoes. My favorite is a term my older sister brought home back in the early sixties – I can’t remember if she was still in high school in Spokane or off to Stanford. At any rate, she referred to them as her ‘tenny-pumps’ which my mother thought was hysterical, and so it became ingrained in the family lexicon.

  5. Adkmedic says:

    I grew up outside of Rochester, New York and I suppose you could call that a “border area with Canada”.  However we usually didn’t.  My parents also used the term “owly”.  When they used it it always referred to the weather.  Usually nasty, windy, disagreeable weather that you didn’t want to be in.  Because the weather was always windy when it was owly out I always figured that the term was a shortened form of howly, because the wind howled on these nights.

  6. Claire M says:

    I’m from Canada and – at least where I’m from (west coast) – neither “tennis shoes” nor “sneakers” are very common words for sporty shoes. We just call them “runners” or “running shoes.” Makes it pretty simple! If they are not specifically for running, they may be called cross-trainers (or sometimes just trainers). I have heard these other terms (although tennis shoes are court shoes made specifically for racquet sports), but rarely used them. I’m surprised the lovely hosts didn’t discuss a possible “neutral” option for the couple who couldn’t agree on a name for athletic shoes. Runners might be a good option in this case!

  7. EmmettRedd says:

    Claire M said:

    I’m from Canada and – at least where I’m from (west coast) – neither “tennis shoes” nor “sneakers” are very common words for sporty shoes. We just call them “runners” or “running shoes.” Makes it pretty simple! If they are not specifically for running, they may be called cross-trainers (or sometimes just trainers). I have heard these other terms (although tennis shoes are court shoes made specifically for racquet sports), but rarely used them. I’m surprised the lovely hosts didn’t discuss a possible “neutral” option for the couple who couldn’t agree on a name for athletic shoes. Runners might be a good option in this case!

    In less formal circles, I have heard, “Tennie Runners”.

    Emmett

  8. sandorm says:

    I’m Canadian as well, and we have only ever used running shoes (I think the runners abbreviation may be more recent than running shoes). Tennis shoes, yes, only for those that are mandatory for tennis courts (other types of athletic shoes usually not permitted).

    The British use “trainers” regardless of whether they are designed specifically for running, cross-training, or just ordinary wear.

    Interesting that the French term has adopted another English sport’s name: “les baskets”!

    Monica

  9. blueflier says:

    I loved the podcast.  My husband and I have regular “what did you just call that thing?” conversations, even after 16 years of marriage.  The sneaker/tennis shoe conversation sparked a memory.

     

    I’m from Southern California, and we called the rubber soled shoes “keds” or “vans” (the difference being the pointed toe or the round toe, not necessarily if it was the actual brand), or “deck shoes” or sometimes “tennies.”  

     

    My husband is from Australia; he called them “sand shoes” or “trainers” when he first came over to the US. And, my mother-in-law is originally from Northern England and she still calls them “plimsoles.”

     

    The other shoe that gets a lot of discussion and puzzled looks are the rubber sandals with a separator between the big toe and the rest of the toes — are they thongs, goheads, zories, flip flops, flaps, chinelos…?

    –Kimber

  10. Stacie.Make.Do says:

    I always thought “owly” meant something similar to getting up on the wrong side of the bed, or having a Jonah day. I figured it came from the fact that most owls sleep during the day and are active at night, so if you are owly you are acting as though you haven’t had enough sleep, slow, groggy, touchy and/or grouchy – like an owl being awake at the wrong time.

  11. hippogriff says:

    Hat: Dallas, TX, ’30s and ’40s; stocking cap, although I haven’t heard it used in years, Lower Mainland (Vancouver, BC), ’70s; toque, pronounced tuuk.

    Shoes: same times and places; tennis shoes and runners.

    Sees: a remarkably elastic measurement. In mountainous areas, could be a short as a half mile; on rolling hills about ten miles; on open prairie once was 30 miles, but polluted air now makes half that maximum and getting shorter.

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