What time is it if it’s the crack of chicken? When exactly is the shank of the evening? How do you pronounce the word spelled H-O-V-E-R? Did Warren G. Harding really coin the word normalcy? Also, a name game, sports nicknames, flounder vs. founder, Laundromats vs. washaterias, Black Dutch, nosebaggers, medical slang, and a look back at the joys of the early internet.

This episode first aired April 21, 2012.

Download the MP3.

 Names for Rolling Stops
When a car rolls slowly through a stop sign, it’s often called a California stop or a California roll. But the Midwest has its own monikers for this sneaky move, including the farmer stop, the Chicago stop, and no cop, no stop.

 Crack of Chicken
How early do you have to wake up to see what one listener calls the crack of chicken? It seems to be a twist on the term crack of dawn. Other terms for this early-morning time are o’dark thirty and the scratch of dawn.

 Harding’s Normalcy?
Did President Warren G. Harding coin the term normalcy in his famous Return to Normalcy speech? Turns out the word normalcy was already in use before Harding made it famous. Its synonym, normality, is generally the preferred term. Harding is also credited with — or blamed for — bringing the term hospitalization into the common vernacular.

In his book Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush, Allan Metcalf points out that U.S. presidents have contributed or popularized quite a few neologisms to the English language.

 More Names for Rolling Stops
In Texas, the California stop is also known as an Okie yield sign, an Okie crash sign, and a taxpayer stop.

 Gorked and Crimped
What does it mean to be gorked or crimped? These slang terms for “high on drugs” are used by hospital and emergency medical services workers to help cope with the stress of such traumatic work and to build solidarity among co-workers.

 Aptronym Word Game
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game of aptronyms for people whose names fit certain locations or conditions. For example, a guy hanging onto a wall might be named Art. Or what do you call a woman between two buildings? Ally!

 Black Dutch
The racial descriptor Black Dutch is sometimes used by people who want to disguise someone’s true ethnic origins. Black Irish and Black German are also used.

 Flounder vs. Founder
What’s the difference between flounder and founder? To flounder is “to struggle or thrash about,” while to founder is “to sink or to fail.” Surprisingly, the verb flounder shares no etymological root with the fish, though the image of a flounder flapping helplessly about on the shore may have influenced our sense of the word.

 Skeuomorphs
Skeuomorphs are aesthetic elements of design that no longer correlate with their original function. Computer software is full of skeuomorphs. For example, the save button that we’re all used to is a picture of a floppy disk. But then, who uses floppy disks any more?

 Sports Nicknames
With linsanity and tebowing sweeping the country, we’re thinking about other great sports nicknames. Unfortunately, it seems that with unique names taking up a greater percentage of children born, there’s no longer as much practical demand for nicknames. Still, the Babe, Magic, and The Refrigerator live on in legend.

 Like A Broken Record
The increasingly musty expression like a broken record has caused some confusion among digital natives who’ve heard of broken records only in terms of sports!

 Internet Meme Lexicon
Ben Zimmer published a brilliant collection of internet memes from the past twenty years in a the journal American Speech. Memes like facepalming and the O, rly? owl have allowed us to communicate otherwise unwritable sentiments via the internet.

 Pronouncing Hover
How do you pronounce the word hover? In England, it rhymes more with “clobber” than “lover.” If you want to learn how to say “My hovercraft is full of eels” in lots of different languages, head on over to Omniglot.

 Shank of the Evening Expression
It’s the shank of the evening! But when is that, exactly? This phrase is typically suggests that the night is far from over, shank being an old word for something straight, or the tail end of something. But as the Dictionary of American Regional English notes, in the South, evening is considered “the time between late afternoon and dusk.”

 Nosebaggers
If you’re on vacation, watch out for nosebaggers. This mid-19th century slang term refers to tourists who go to resort areas for the day but bring their own provisions and don’t contribute to the local economy. A modern nosebagger might be the type of person who brings their own snacks to the movies.

 Laundromats and Washaterias
Do you wash your clothes at a Laundromat or a washateria? A chain of Laundromats in Texas that dated from 1930 to 1950 had the name Washateria, and it took hold as a general term, especially in Texas.

 Even More Names for Rolling Stops
A couple more variations of the California stop: the jackrabbit and the California slide.

Photo by Barbara Spengler. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush Allan Metcalf
Dictionary of American Regional English

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label
Awareness (Suite) Buddy Terry Awareness Mainstream Records
Hot Dog Mongo Santamaria Soul Bag CBS
Super Strut Deodato The Roots of Acid Jazz Sony
Funk Yourself Eumir Deodato First Cuckoo MCA Records
Dig The Thing Bill Doggett Lionel Hampton Presents: Bill Dogett Who’s Who In Jazz
Love Song Sonny Red Sonny Red Mainstream Records
Sideman Lonnie Smith The Roots of Acid Jazz Sony
The Immigrant Gas Mask Their First Album Tonsil Records
Soulful Proclamation Messengers Incorporated Soulful Proclamation SMI Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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15 Responses

  1. separator says:

    I think I might take exception to the assertion that “normalcy” has become obsolete. It’s frequently heard from broadcast outlets, with concomitant usage by the masses. While “normality” might be grammatically or linguistically more correct, I don’t think it is the more frequently used term.

  2. sbenezue says:

    I am originally from the coast of Mississippi (now live in Texas) when I was growing up I remember using Washateria and Laundromat or Laundrymat, interchangeably.

    I still do.

  3. alphabetgirl says:

    The increasingly musty expression “like a broken record” has caused some confusion among digital natives who’ve heard of broken records only in terms of sports!

    Grant, I am of the generation that has used this phrase.   I never thought it could ever be understood as a sports record! Brilliant!

    However, I think you missed an important point about the word “broken”. The complete phrase, as you pointed out, is “[someone] sounds/doesn’t sound like a broken record.    

    I have always used this phrase to mean it sounds repetitive, like a broken record.
    In other words, the record is scratched so that a single word or phrase keeps repeating.   The metaphoric record would not be cracked in pieces or in part: the record must still be playable in order for us to hear it.

    Thanks for a great show every week!

  4. Heimhenge says:

    I agree. A brilliant re-interpretation by Grant of the meaning of broken record. I’m sure that expression confuses many in the younger generations.

    I’ve always expected the same would happen to clockwise and counter-clockwise. While Big Ben and other iconic analog clocks will certainly remain (I hope), the move to digital clocks renders those expressions meaningless. Maybe we’ll need to switch to another analogy … perhaps based on righty-tighty, left-loosey.   :)

    [Edit: Woohoo! I just saw that this is my 300th post. Love this forum!]

  5. KatieJ says:

    I’m surprised Grant and Martha didn’t remember the song:

     

    When the party’s gettin’ a glow on,

    And singin’ fills the air,

    In the shank of the night

    When the doin’s are right

    You can tell ‘em I’ll be there!

     

    The song is “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” and the lyrics, so far as I can tell, are attributed to Bing Crosby.

  6. separator says:

    As far as a new interpretation of “broken record” goes, I think it’s a matter of what else is a younger person, who has seldom/never been exposed to vinyl records supposed to think about such a phrase? It’s just a guess as to what they might imagine, but a reference to a broken sports record is probably as good as any!

  7. Ron Draney says:

    Words ending in “-over” can rhyme with cover, with Dover, or with mover (or, as the caller pointed out, with no other word I can think of). Back in the days of the original Colossal Cave adventure game, I was never able to get a straight answer which of these categories plover is supposed to belong to.

    Minor correction to a point from an earlier post: Bing Crosby had the biggest hit recording of “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening”, but a quick peek at the copy of Lissauer’s at my elbow tells me the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer.

  8. trusttom says:

    I agree with alphabetgirl about the repetitive nature of sounding like a broken record.  To me the phrase definitely refers to a record that skips and repeats. One risks sounding like a broken record when they repeatedly bring up an seemingly important detail that has already been discussed but unresolved.

    I had work boots as a kid with a “Steel Shank” advertised on the arch. From this I always assumed shank of the evening meant the middle of the evening. Since the shank was in the middle of the sole. Not early. Not late.

     

    -Tom

  9. Ron Draney says:

    In the show, Martha suggested just the word “save” instead of a picture of a floppy disc, forgetting perhaps that the software might be used by people whose language is not English.

    I ran into this years ago when I was preparing a PowerPoint presentation that needed a pictorial representation of money going from one place to another. My boss suggested a bag with a big dollar sign on it. I had to remind him that not all of our customers traded in dollars, and some might interpret it as a flow of “American influence” rather than as a flow of funds. I finally ended up using clip art showing a stack of gold coins.

  10. BenRoberts says:

    Regarding “crump” (i.e., a patient’s ill-advised sudden descent into a less-than desirable life status).

    I had originally thought that this was a cognate of the German “krump” as seen in Mittelhochdeutsch fencing texts, where you see the term “krumphau” meaning “crooked strike.” However, a search for the term spelled with a C revealed that the term probably comes from cricket (the sport, not the insect).

    In cricket, a crump is a hard hit (of the sort that might produce a home run across the pond). It follows that if a crump is a hard hit that when a patient’s vital signs suddenly “hit rock bottom” they have executed a crump.

    Huzzah for the UK. Seeing as you told me that “gorked” was in use in Britain, I suspect that this bit of slang may have originated over there as well.

  11. Jeepien says:

    Regarding “Gork”, I’d heard this used to describe people in a coma whose prognosis was dim at best. It was described to me as an acronym for “God Only Really Knows” and it shows up on acronymfinder.com in that sense.

  12. Profjlewis says:

    BenRoberts said:

    Regarding “crump” (i.e., a patient’s ill-advised sudden descent into a less-than desirable life status).

    I had originally thought that this was a cognate of the German “krump” as seen in Mittelhochdeutsch fencing texts, where you see the term “krumphau” meaning “crooked strike.” However, a search for the term spelled with a C revealed that the term probably comes from cricket (the sport, not the insect).

    In cricket, a crump is a hard hit (of the sort that might produce a home run across the pond). It follows that if a crump is a hard hit that when a patient’s vital signs suddenly “hit rock bottom” they have executed a crump.

    Huzzah for the UK. Seeing as you told me that “gorked” was in use in Britain, I suspect that this bit of slang may have originated over there as well.

    I was shocked to hear that Grant was unfamiliar with “crump.” It is as natural a term to me as any idiom. I have lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, with a short time in OK and TX. I sure can’t ever remember picking the expression up. I’d use it not only in the context of a physical cause, but an emotional one… eg…”When she heard her father had been killed, she just crumped.” Not far off of “…she just wilted.”

  13. hippogriff says:

    Aptronym: Who keeps a ratchet in place? Pawl

     

    Black Irish: The way I heard it, it was due to Spanish washed up from the Spanish Armada. Being Catholic and against England, they were welcomed and absorbed by the Irish. Since both are Celtic (Spanish having Moorish too) there is not really that much ethnic difference.

     

    Floppy discs: I still use one on my Mac Leopard with an external drive, for backup.

     

    Vinyl disk are relative immune to “broken record” cross grooving, it was the shellacs that gave rise to the term.

     

    Cool, Cool, Cool of the evening was sung in a movie by Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman (at the time married to Ronald Reagan, before she got an Oscar for Johnny Belinda, which he could never win).

     

    I associate jackrabbit with tire-burning starts, not stops.

  14. misstina says:

    I had a friend from South Dakota who would say “it’s only the shank of the evening” in an effort for me to stay and have just one more. I believe the caller was from Michigan so maybe it’s a Northern phrase.

     

    I agree “broken record” alludes to being repetitive, like an old vinyl album. Showing my age here!

     

    As for the icon for “save”…maybe a picture of a safe, such as the kind you put your valuables in for safekeeping.

     

    P.S. Love the show!

  15. cajunnan says:

    Growing up in Cajun Country in South Louisiana, we also used Washateria. It wasn’t until I left Louisiana that I used the term Laundromat.

     

    sbenezue said:

    I am originally from the coast of Mississippi (now live in Texas) when I was growing up I remember using Washateria and Laundromat or Laundrymat, interchangeably.

    I still do.

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