Stories From The Onion
In this week’s episode, Martha and Grant discuss not-to-be-believed articles about language from the satirical newspaper The Onion, including one headlined “Underfunded Schools Forced to Cut Past Tense from Language Programs.” By the way, did you ever notice how “ONION” is ZO-ZO if you tilt your head to the right?

This episode first aired January 12, 2008.

Download the MP3.

 Tide Me Over
A caller has a friendly disagreement with a pal: Is the expression “tide me over” or “tie me over”? Hint: The answer she gets should tide her over.

 To Commentate
If a dictator dictates, and an aviator aviates, then does a commentator “commentate”? A caller complains that this last word gives him the willies. Does an alligator alligate?

 Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper
A middle-schooler who’s reading Anne of Green Gables is puzzled by a mention of “breakfast, dinner, and supper.” She wants to know if the words “dinner” and “lunch” really interchangeable.

 Animal Name Word Puzzle
The fur flies when Greg Pliska unleashes a word puzzle involving the names of animals.

 Origin of “See a Man about a Horse”
Also speaking of animals, an immigrant from India recounts his confusion the first time he heard the expression “I’m going to go see a man about a horse.” How in did that become a euphemism for “I’m going to go to the bathroom”?

 Charny
A former West Virginian reports that she grew up hearing a strange word: charny. In her part of the country, she says, it means “dirty” or “filthy,” and she always heard it pronounced “chee-YAR-nee.”

 Hat-Catcher
This week’s Slang This! contestant, a comic-book illustrator from Providence, R.I., tries to guess the meaning of the expressions “hat-catcher” and “to go shucks.”

 The Longest Word in English
What IS the longest word in the English language? “Antidisestablishmentarianism”? “Floccinaucinihilipilification”? Or “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” maybe? Martha and Grant discuss such sesquipedalian contenders for the title of Longest English Word. For the rest of that list of long words that Martha mentioned, check out AskOxford.com.

 Punctuation and Quotation Marks
Where do you put those exclamation points and question marks– do they go inside or outside the quotation marks? Can you say, “We have the answer!”?

 Banish “Biweekly”
Confused about whether biweekly means “twice a week” or “twice a month”? Martha rants about why the using the words “biweekly” and “bimonthly” at all is a bad idea, period.

 G-Job
Grant shares listener email about the origin and meaning of the term g-job.

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

Photo by Pauli Carmody. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Anne of Green Gables by Lisa Montgomery

Onion Stories We Like:

Copy Editor’s Revenge Takes Form Of Unhyphenated Word

Our Street Gangs Are Probably Using Bad Language

Rules Grammar Change

Someday, I Will Copyedit The Great American Novel

Nation’s Educators Alarmed By Poorly Written Teen Suicide Notes

Heroic Computer Dies To Save World From Master’s Thesis

Underfunded Schools Forced to Cut Past Tense from Language Programs

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60 Responses

  1. beatrice says:

    To the young woman confused by supper and dinner:
    Life on the farm is NOT kinda laid back, especially when it’s time to make hay while the sun shines.
    Dinner is the MAIN meal of the day. For city people this is most likely the evening meal; “abendessen” in German. For farm people, in the day of labor intensive farming, Dinner was the noon meal. Dinner preparation began at the same time as breakfast, if not before. The yeast had to be proofed so the bread could be made. Dinner usually featured several kinds of pies and cake as well as several meats, vegetables (fresh from the garden), lots o carbs – potatoes, noodles, breads – and was a long break from the morning’s hard labor.
    Lunch was served around 4, similar to what we think of as British tea. Lunch was freqently sandwiches from the meats left from Dinner, more sweets, and lots of liquids. This was the break and sustenance to carry the workers through until the end of the work day.
    After the evening chores are finished and it’s time to sit down for the day comes supper. Supper is a light meal. More than leftovers, it is not as heavy or involved as Dinner. Thus the references to Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper. I had to make the adjustment from the city meal schedule to the farm schedule, and the easiest way to explain the difference between supper and Dinner is that Dinner is the main meal of the day, and supper is a light meal. The distinction may be lost these days.

  2. mclarevds says:

    “onion” is ZO-ZO if you tilt your head to the right?
    Not really but “ONION” is with the right font. (I know, picky, picky!)

    I thought the response to the Green Gables dinner question was a bit lacking. Don’t either of you know that dinner has often been the name for the big meal of the day? I usually eat brf, lunch, and dinner but farmers, like the GG folk, had their dinner in the middle of the day and a light supper before bed.

    Mary Clare

  3. Well, it’s not that simple, Beatrice and Mary Clare. As we said on the show, the usage varies greatly. My father’s people were farmers. I lived on a farm as a boy. Your description of farmers’ usage of “dinner” and “supper” doesn’t jibe with our usage of it. Dinner, the last meal of the day for us, was also our biggest meal of the day–but not because we were differentiating it from “supper,” a word which was interchangeable for “dinner.”

    In any case, in traditional farm life back in the day (perhaps in that fantastical never-was farm life that American mythologizing says is the core of our history), I believe breakfast was the big meal of the day. First you feed the animals and milk the cows—farm animals always come first, because tending them is like tending money—and when you come in from the morning chores, you eat a huge breakfast. The mid-day meal was a smallish affair brought out to where you were working (because you can’t have people taking naps in the middle of the day after a big meal) and supper at the table could be early or late, depending on the time of the year, whether there was company, and habit.

  4. Mike says:

    Re dinner vs. lunch vs. supper. I wonder if the confusion has something to do with the wonders of English. There are many nuances in our language that derive from Anglo Saxon vs. Latin/French influences. Supper seems to be an Anglo Saxon term for the evening meal, probably involving soup. Dinner probably comes from the Latin/ French – to dine is “diner” in French, “cenar” in Spanish. In most Norman vs. Anglio Saxon terms, the French form was used by the gentry, while the AS form was for the peasant. I suggest that lunch is more of a peasant meal, while dinner is more of a china/silver sit-down affair that has transcended class distinction over the centuries. Supper is the late meal, which could also be a dinner – though in Europe it still is more of a bread and soup affair later in the evening.

  5. beatrice says:

    Yes, in my grandmother’s day, the noon meal was carried to the workers in the fields. She told a story about hay season when, as a young girl (born in the early 1890’s) her duty was to watch the horses, attached to a tripod arrangement which lifted the hay, while the workers ate. Of course, a young girl’s attention will wander, as will unattended horses, and over the tripod went.
    As someone who has helped prepare the meals during hay season late mid-20th century, breakfast was hearty, but certainly not the spread that was served at noon.
    Martha, is it regional usage?

  6. Wayne Baxter says:

    I was listening to the Grant and Martha name some popular euphemisms having to pee, and thought I would drop my two cents. I have been in the navy for a grip of years and now use the term “check bilges”.
    I derived this term from boot camp, though it took awhile to affix itself upon my lexicon. After chow our company was given a short amount of time to use the restroom, always seemed a bit too short of time. The Company Commander would announce to us that all 75 people had 10 minutes to “Pump and Dump”, and this alludes to a vessel once outside a certain distance from land the ship will pump bilges and dump garbage.

  7. I have to say I am LOVING all these reminiscences about dinner and supper, both in this thread and the few comments here.

    And Beatrice, Grant’s done more research on the regional differences than I have, but I’ve learned from him that there do indeed seem to be parts of the country where one is more prevalent than the other.

  8. I also have to say that this thread was making me hungry. That is, until I read Wayne’s post about “checking bilges”! :-)

    Great stuff, Wayne! We always love hearing these firsthand reports from a particular group’s slang and jargon — the military, in this case. And btw, Wayne, I’ve never heard anyone say “for a grip of years.” Is that your own phrase, or did I just somehow miss it before now?

  9. Erick Tatro says:

    Hi, I was on my way to the library this afternoon and I heard your discussion about the longest word and Grant mentioned psuedopsuedohypoparathyroidism. Well, I wanted to offer some help in what it means real quick, psuedohypoparathydroidism is a disease that is a dysregulation of feedback mechanisms on the function of the parathyroid that would give symptoms as if the parathyroid were enlarged. But it’s not, hence the “psuedo.” Psuedohypoparathyroidism is actually more common than hypoparathyroidism and it’s easily recognized by doctors and treated. I wouldn’t put it past the medical profession to name ACTUAL hypoparathyroidism “psuedopsuedohypoparathyroidism,” but it probably is a disease characterized by the same symptoms but different cause.

    At any rate, I had an inner chuckle when you mentioned biochemistry and biochemical names because it brought me back to biochemistry classes learning about proteins and metabolic regulation and gene transcription.

    One of the funniest examples, and you see lots of research published on this protein, and it’s importance for regulating cell functions is this protein: CREB-BP (we just say “creb-b-p.”. It literally stands for CREB-Binding Protein. CREB is CRE-Binding Protein. CRE (and we sometimes pronounce is “cree”) is Cyclic AMP Responsive Element, and Cyclic AMP is cyclic adenine monophosphate.

    So CREB-BP is cyclic adenine monophosphate responsive element binding protein binding protein. A protein that binds a protein that binds an element of dna in response to cyclicAMP.

    Another funny example is on a biochemistry exam in undergrad, I got an answer wrong because I wrote, “Adenyl cyclase.” The professor was looking for “Adenylate cyclase.” I looked it up in the book, and the protein referred to in the question is listed as “adenyl,” and in his class notes, the professor wrote “adynlate.” They really are the same physical thing, but different way of calling it. Since I had already gotten into grad school at that point, I let esteemed professor think that he really showed me and I didn’t question it to get my two-points back on the exam.

    Finally, there’s a protein that synthesizes glycogen. It’s called glycogen synthase (makes sense, right?). It’s function is modified by an enzyme that adds phosphate to it called glycogen synthase kinase. THAT protein in turn is regulated by another enzyme called Glycogen Synthase Kinase Kinase. I think they teach us about this on the first day of biochemistry scare us.

    Examples like these are all over biochemistry and medicine, and we to name things descriptively and it is sometimes creative … or not. For example, a professor calling an element of DNA that responds to guanine, “Let’s call it the G-Spot,” and the class snickers.

    I just wanted to share some of these examples with you … biochemists can sometimes have a way with words.

    Thanks,
    Erick
    (San Diego)

  10. Rick Zucker says:

    Yes, I was surprised that they did not mention that dinner is the big meal of the day, regardless of when it is served, and that it is not just calling lunch dinner. I also remember a Sherlock Holmes story where they are hot on the trail of something and Holmes says to Watson “… then let’s turn our dinner into a supper”, meaning something lighter and faster so that they could be on their way.

  11. LeoKulonosen says:

    I am so glad you brought up this euphemism. I had never heard this until I was in my twenties. I first heard it from my boss who was a recent immigrant from Ireland. In fact from county Cork near Limerick. I was glad to hear you reinforce the notion that the expression comes from Ireland. Though I guess it doesn’t really matter other than when you hear, “I’m going to see a man about a horse” or the even more common “I need to see a man about a horse” you hear a very lilting rapid fire phrase “see a man about a horse”.
    When you pointed out that there was an older saying about a dog, it only reinforces the argument that it is the rhythm of the phrase that is important. It is a pity when you read these words, you cannot hear them spoken. It is like reading Oscar Wilde aloud. It is better done with a Limerick accent.

  12. bolddeceiver says:

    I disagree with Grant on the ambiguity of semi-weekly. “Semi-” is used a lot these days just to mean “sort of,” but strictly speaking it means half, and I think this still standard enough that anyone but a pedant would realize that semiweekly means once every half week, just as a semicircle is precisely half of a circle.

  13. Well, that must be the first time I’ve ever been called a pedant. Usually I get accused of being a laxicographer or something equally inane.

  14. Sally says:

    I heard an excellent lunch/dinner explanation on the PBS series “Manor House”, which was a modern-day re-enactment of life in the Edwardian Period. The main meal (dinner) for the serving staff was at noon, while the lord and lady of the manor ate a lighter meal, or supper, at that hour.
    Their large meal (dinner) was in the early evening, and the servants ate a lighter meal (supper) around that time of day.
    Since watching that show, I have wondered if a particular family’s use of these terms has more to do with the occupations of their ancestors than where they live today.

  15. mtlwriterguy says:

    Hi Martha and Grant,

    Hi there! It’s your old friend Mark Shainblum from Montreal, Canada, of “postalgia” and Slang It infamy. I hope you’re doing well.

    I just listened to the latest episode on podcast (as a podcast? in podcast form? English can’t keep up with technology…) and was also struck by the young lady’s confusion about the use of “dinner” and “supper” in Anne of Green Gables.

    Just to respond to Martha’s musing about whether the term was a specifically Canadian usage, the answer is no. As in the U.S., it seems to be a regional or class-based thing here too, with the English/French linguistic divide thrown in for good measure. Over the years I’ve noticed that even English-speaking people from different neighbourhoods in Montreal will use “dinner” or “lunch” for the noontime meal, though “lunch” is by far the more common, say 95% more common. The use of “dinner” for noon time meal was probably much more common in the early 1900’s, when Anne of Green Gables was written, and the English spoken in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s home province of Prince Edward Island (and in the Maritimes in general) has always been rich in dialect and archaisms.

    What’s also really interesting is that Quebec French has gone in exactly the opposite direction. In pure, Academie francaise-approved French, “Petit dejeuner” is breakfast, “Dejeuner” is lunch, and “diner” (dinner) or “souper” (supper) are the evening meals. In Quebec, most people call breakfast “dejeuner,” dropping the “petit” entirely, lunch is “diner” and the evening meal is “souper.” Surprisingly, the English word “lunch” is also used, but not as the name of a specific meal; rather, it means a snack. That use is so entrenched that there’s even a local brand of cookie called “Lunch,” a name I never understood until a French-speaking friend explained it to me. So, when speaking English, French-Canadians will also often call the noon time meal “dinner,” and will say “Let’s have some lunch,” when they feel like having cake and coffee at 11:00 pm.

    Wikipedia also has a great article on the origin of the word “lunch” and “dinner” and the meals they describe at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunch.

  16. strehlow says:

    My nephrons are floating.

  17. strehlow says:

    The “go shucks” quiz reminded me of some scrubs that we have at the hospital where I sometimes work. They are called “MRI Scrubs” and are a different color than the usual ones we use. I asked a nurse what the difference is. She said they have no pockets. That way people don’t inadvertently bring metallic objects into the MRI rooms.
    Due to the intense and rapidly-changing magnetic fields, ferrous metals can be thrown around, and other things like rings can have electric currents induced in them causing them to heat up.

  18. Alida says:

    Re “charney” or maybe czarny
    The ear is a wondrous thing. When the lady from West Virginia called about the word meaning dirty I heard/ imagined czarny. That is Polish for black – and my grandmother used an expression nie czarny – not black meaning she had cleaned the house.

    My brain made the following trip: czarny= black = sooty = coal
    Many Polish immigrants wound up working in coal mines in Pennsylvania, like my grandfather or West Virginia, like his cousin.

    This may be a pseudo attribution, but I thought I would share it. English, after all has a habit of blending in foreign words…

  19. windpig says:

    Re: Re “charney”; as I was listening to this discussion, I heard the word “charnel” as possibly related. “A Charnel house is a vault or building where corpses and/or bones are stored”; might be a very messy house indeed!

  20. amcrory says:

    Thought of a pretty common exception to the “periods and commas always go inside the quotes” rule: titles of works.

    For example: Growing up, I loved the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. Because the punctuation isn’t a part of the title, it should live outside the quotes, no?

    thx!

    -Andy in North Park

  21. Court says:

    All the talk about dinner vs. supper reminded me of an exchange from one of my favorite movies of all time:

    Aragorn: Gentlemen! We do not stop ’til nightfall.
    Pippin: But what about breakfast?
    Aragorn: You’ve already had it.
    Pippin: We’ve had one, yes. But what about second breakfast?
    [Aragorn stares at him, then walks off.]
    Merry: Don’t think he knows about second breakfast, Pip.
    Pippin: What about elevensies? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn’t he?
    Merry: I wouldn’t count on it.

  22. Court! That’s one of my favorite scenes in the LOTR movies, too. You have to say “What about second breakfast?” just like Pippin does. See the actors doing that scene, and referencing it in real life, here.

  23. tmeyer says:

    Having served in the navy years ago, I love the bawdy euphemisms. Never heard the “pump and dump” version, but it brings to mind clear images of boot camp and what a Company Commander might say.

    I am disappointed to see so few comments on the “man about a horse” euphemism as there are many like it which are much more colorful. Specifically for urination for instance, there are male and female versions, like “draining (or wringing out) the lizard” for men, and “shaking the dew off the lily” for women – although I’ve heard the latter used by men.

  24. BrianBurnspl says:

    Alida said:

    Re “charney” or maybe czarny
    The ear is a wondrous thing. When the lady from West Virginia called about the word meaning dirty I heard/ imagined czarny. That is Polish for black – and my grandmother used an expression nie czarny – not black meaning she had cleaned the house.

    My brain made the following trip: czarny= black = sooty = coal
    Many Polish immigrants wound up working in coal mines in Pennsylvania, like my grandfather or West Virginia, like his cousin.

    This may be a pseudo attribution, but I thought I would share it. English, after all has a habit of blending in foreign words…


    I second the notion.
    I was listening to the podcast and it only took a split-second to arrive to the same conclusion.
    I’ve been living in Poland for the past 6 years, and although I can attest that Poles don’t use the word to talk about the state of their houses’ cleanliness, it seems fitting: it means what it means.
    Glad that you thought the same.

  25. dhenderson says:

    The commentator/commentate discussion reminded me of an element of aviation terminology that has always annoyed me. When the FAA pronounces an airplane design airworthy, the aircraft is said to be “certificated” instead of “certified,” which would make much more sense. “Certificated” seems to imply (to me, anyway) that the characteristics of the aircraft are irrelevant; it’s the little piece of paper (the airworthiness certificate) that carries all the significance.

    I know it’s obscure, but if I don’t let these out, they fester. Not pretty.

    Dan

  26. pj says:

    I hate the word commentate too. I was totally agreeing with that caller. *sigh*

    Just because it’s correct, doesn’t mean I have to use it!

  27. Craig Grover says:

    The school district in which I teach uses ‘certificated’ to refer to teachers and other professionals who must have a current certificate from the State of Illinois. The district also uses ‘certified’ to refer to people such as custodians and food service employees, who have passed their probationary period but who do not have certificates.

    In this case it is not elegant but is useful.

  28. Wow. “Certificated” is a new one on me! Thanks for the info.

  29. Jennifer says:

    In the same vein of “see a man about a horse,” I have really liked the euphemism I have heard mostly from men: “I need to go check my stocks.”

  30. Eric says:

    In response to the post about Candian usage of dinner and supper:

    My family spends summers on Prince Edward Island, home of Anne of Green Gables. People there do in fact refer to their noontime meal as dinner and the evening meal as supper. I don’t think I ever heard lunch being used on PEI. Granted, our home is ina very rural region, where many people are still farmers, and most families used to be if they aren’t now. It may be that different terminology is used in the (two) cities on PEI.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve also heard it used in Maine, so if it is a regional difference, it could be maritime Canada, spreading into the northeasterjn U.S. I don’t think it goes as far as Massachusetts, though. I grew up there, and ate breakfast, lunch, and then dinner or supper, used interchangeably. After noticing the difference on Prince Edward Island, I came to the conclusion that others on the forum have expressed, that supper is the evening meal and dinner is the biggest meal of the day, regardless of time. Since then, I’ve used supper for the evening meal, and dinner has mostly dropped out of my speech.

  31. LOL, Jennifer, re checking one’s stocks.

    And Eric, thanks for that first-hand report from PEI!

  32. Emmett Redd says:

    In the early seventies, I visited the Lodge of the Four Seasons at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. The front and stock report pages from the Wall Street Journal (I think) were posted on bulletin boards above the urinals.

    So a man could check his stocks while he was , er, “checking his stocks.”

    Emmett

  33. Glenn Peters says:

    A friend of mine in college used a similar euphemism for a different activity:

    We’ve got to go and clean the flamingo box

  34. Wordsmith says:

    Emmett Redd sedd:
    So a man could check his stocks while he was , er, “checking his stocks.”

    Gosh, Emmett, that actually makes more sense now! I wonder if that might be a possible origin.

  35. Len Morgenstern says:

    Dorothy Parker once said,

    Excuse me, but I have to use the toilet I really need to make a telephone call, but I’m too embarrassed to say so.

  36. Wordsmith says:

    Hmm. Interesting.

  37. mclarevds says:

    I wonder why Martha’s example of where to put a question mark after a quote was not actually a question. Wouldn’t a better example be “Who was it who said…”? Should I put a question mark inside my quotes and another outside? ;-)
    Mary Clare

  38. bj says:

    Regarding Biweekly and Bimonthly.
    I heard somewhere that the use of Bi- as twice a week or twice a month probably came from the doctor’s prescription shorthand
    “bid – bis en die, twice each day “

    I long ago stopped using the term because of the possibility of misunderstanding, and will always email or call to verify what someone wants. (I once had in one day, two memos from the same person wanting biweekly meetings for two different projects, one was for twice a week and the other was for every other week.)

  39. Hi, Mary Clare — What WAS my example? I forget. :-)

  40. Lee Daniel Crocker says:

    amcrory said:

    Thought of a pretty common exception to the “periods and commas always go inside the quotes” rule: titles of works.

    For example: Growing up, I loved the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. Because the punctuation isn’t a part of the title, it should live outside the quotes, no?

    thx!

    -Andy in North Park


    American style guides will tell you to put the period inside the quotes even there–it’s a very consistent, long-standing tradition, and totally WRONG, as you point out. British style guides do it correctly, putting the quoted stuff inside quotes and the non-quoted stuff outside, with no special rule for commas and periods. While I’m usually happy to follow convention for its own sake, and I honor (with no U) American English as highly as that used elsewhere, this is one case where long-standing tradition just needs to be thrown out the window. As Grant points out, computer programmers (and many technology-related magazines and web sites) already do this, using American styles for everything except the stupid, wrong, and pointless quote rule. It’s time for another American revolution, and this time, we should do it the British way.

    I even went so far as to insist upon it in my last published article–I wouldn’t let them publish it unless they put the commas where they belong, dammit, and not blindly follow a style guide that’s obsolete and counter to common sense and reason.

    Revolt! Put your commas where they belong!

  41. Lee, why don’t you tell us how you really feel? :-)

    Seriously, I’m all ears/eyes: What exactly is the problem with the American style? Are you saying this specifically because of the computer-language problem, or are there other reasons?

  42. Lee Daniel Crocker says:

    martha said:

    Lee, why don’t you tell us how you really feel? -)

    Seriously, I’m all ears/eyes: What exactly is the problem with the American style? Are you saying this specifically because of the computer-language problem, or are there other reasons?


    To me it’s simply a matter of clarity and precision: quotation marks mean something, namely, that the stuff inside is a quotation. The American rule simply violates that for no good reason. I suppose some might consider the visual esthetics of the text to be a valid reason, but I don’t think that should override precise expression.

    And yes, I admit that I’m a computer programmer, so maybe I’m biased.

  43. Elbert says:

    martha said:

    Hi, Mary Clare — What WAS my example? I forget. :-)


    I noticed this, too. Martha’s example was a statement in the form of “I wonder who said, “Blood is thicker than water.” I would have thought that the proper place for the question mark was nowhere, although a question is implied. Had she said, “Who said “Blood is thicker than water”?” the question mark would go outside of the quote, (and inside the quoted quote . . .)

    By the way, am I supposed to use a comma in “. . . she said, “Who …”, or are such commas becoming obsolete?

  44. Elbert says:

    About lunch, supper and dinner: In our family (German-American heritage, in Milwaukee), “dinner” generally implied a more formal or elegant meal. Breakfast, lunch and supper were everyday meals, but we regularly had “Sunday dinner” at mid-day. Sunday dinner usually included a roast of some kind, and was served on fine china with silverware. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter “dinners” were and are also served on china, and the name would apply regardless of whether it was a mid-day or evening meal, although it was almost invariably mid-day.

    We continue to use “dinner” to connote a somewhat more formal occasion. We invite friends to “dinner”, which is understood to be a somewhat formal evening meal. An invitation to “supper”, on the other hand, implies a simpler meal.

  45. tkallen says:

    LeoKulonosen said:

    I am so glad you brought up this euphemism. I had never heard this until I was in my twenties. I first heard it from my boss who was a recent immigrant from Ireland. In fact from county Cork near Limerick. I was glad to hear you reinforce the notion that the expression comes from Ireland. Though I guess it doesn’t really matter other than when you hear, “I’m going to see a man about a horse” or the even more common “I need to see a man about a horse” you hear a very lilting rapid fire phrase “see a man about a horse”.
    When you pointed out that there was an older saying about a dog, it only reinforces the argument that it is the rhythm of the phrase that is important. It is a pity when you read these words, you cannot hear them spoken. It is like reading Oscar Wilde aloud. It is better done with a Limerick accent.


  46. Ron Draney says:

    Grant Barrett said:

    If a dictator dictates, and an aviator aviates, then does a commentator “commentate”? A caller complains that this last word gives him the willies. Does an alligator alligate?


    I got to thinking about this a number of years ago, wondering precisely how then-President Bush’s duties had changed when he went from governing to presiding. That led me to the question of what exactly a mayor does.

    And then I hit on an analogous foreign term. “Minister” is both verb and agent noun, identical in both contexts. How many other job titles are there that are exactly the same as what the jobholder does?

  47. Glenn says:

    Several. A pastor pastors. A mentor mentors. A proctor proctors. A doctor doctors?

    There are also inanimates. A motor motors?

  48. Glenn says:

    A factor factors (into something).

  49. tromboniator says:

    Janitor.

  50. tromboniator says:

    Monitor, prostitute, pimp, butcher. Stevedore. Carpenter? Lawyer? Pilot, captain, marshal, broker, coach, tutor, advocate, cook, soldier, guide, guard, chauffeur…Granted, these don’t all fit the aviator-commentator mold, but it’s past my bedtime.

  51. Dwyn says:

    My father used to say that he was “going to see a man about a mule.” I rather prefer the alliteration of that one.

    I’ve also heard “drain the lizard,” and “drain the tanks.” In our household, we use the term “drain the dogs” to mean that we are going to take the dogs out for a pee.

    As for that pesky comma and quote thing – when type was handset bits of lead, you could snuggle the quotes up to the commas and they didn’t look so awkward, but when desktop publishing came along, and commas had to have a vertical space to the top of the line, they started to look weird. ,” would look better correctly kerned.

  52. tromboniator says:

    When I put together programs for our community orchestra I follow Lee’s logic concerning the punctuation of quotations. I’ve heard no complaints about it in my fifteen-year tenure. I’m not a programmer, I majored in English, and I know I’m biased.

    Peter

  53. docsinn says:

    I lived in Nottingham for a while and the expression there was ” I’m going to turn me bike around” which I think referred to the fact that the privy was in the back yard and that’s where the bike would be parked. also, maybe co-incidentally, the big employer in Nottingham was “the Raleigh” bike factory.

    Alan Brown

  54. noah little says:

    About breakfast, lunch and dinner…

    I grew up in Boston in a family of Irish descent. Our midday meal was lunch, always, and not the main meal of the day. The main meal was in the evening, and it was called supper. Or, actually, we called it suppa. On Thanksgiving, Christmas or other special holidays we had a big festive meal sometime in the early afternoon – those ones were dinner, eh, I mean, dinna. ;)

  55. jacobi says:

    Is there anyway to get a list of the songs used in the episode? Specifically the one played at 26:30? That has a nice groove that I would like to dance to.

  56. Jacobi, I’ll pass your request on to our production editor. He’s the one who chooses the music, so perhaps he can recall it.

  57. jacobi says:

    Thanks I appreciate that. You all use some great songs. I don’t know how much of an inconvenience it would be, but going forward, maybe a quick listing of what was used could be put in the show notes?

  58. johng423 says:

    dinner, supper – I think it was a story in an old Readers Digest about different uses of these words.

    The woman had invited her nephew over for dinner. He arrived at her house around 4 PM and she was furious.
    “Where have you been? You were supposed to be here at 1 o’clock,” she reprimanded.
    “But you said dinner – that’s the evening meal,” he replied.
    “No, the evening meal is called supper. Dinner is the midday meal,” she corrected him.
    “Oh… Well, then, what’s for supper?” he asked, trying to appease her.
    “Dinner!” she retorted.
    (I wonder if he had to eat cold food that night.)

  59. EmmettRedd says:

    Glenn said:

    Several. A pastor pastors. A mentor mentors. A proctor proctors. A doctor doctors?
    There are also inanimates. A motor motors?

    Can we make these into multiple word sentences like, “Buffalo buffalo buffalo …”

    Emmett

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