We all lead busy lives—so are speed reading courses a good idea? Plus, if you hear someone speaking with a British accent, do you tend to assume they’re somehow more intelligent? And some common English surnames tell us stories about life in the Middle Ages. Plus, a 29-letter word for the fear of the number 666, games and riddles, military brats, knocked for a loop, the first dirty word, and book recommendations for math lovers.

This episode first aired December 21, 2013.

Download the MP3.

What do you call it when you’re out in public with friends but they’re all staring at their own cell phones? A listener from Santa Monica, California, suggests that the word techgether.

Are speed reading classes a waste of time? Not if you want to skim instead of read.

A Kentucky cross-country runner had a case of hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, or fear of the number 666.

After you notice a certain word for the first time, chances are you’ll start seeing it all over the place. That’s known as the frequency illusion, coined by linguist Arnold Zwicky, and it happens because of confirmation bias.

What has two hookers, two lookers, four stiff-standers, four diddledanders, and a wig wag?

Quiz Guy John Chaneski have a game matching people with their animal kingdom counterparts.

Is the term military brat a pejorative?

Many common English surnames–such as Taylor, Miller, Shoemaker, Smith, and many others–tell a story about life in the Middle Ages. Two good books on the study of names, also known as onomastics, are The Surname Detective and a Dictionary of English Surnames.

“The face of a child can say it all. Especially the mouth part of the face.” That deep thought is brought to you by Jack Handy.

The plural of moose is moose. The word’s roots are in the name of the animal in the Algonquian language Abenaki.

Listeners who grew up playing the children’s game Duck Duck Gray Duck insist that this Minnesota version of Duck Duck Goose is more complicated and therefore more fun.

Why do so many Americans think British accents automatically connote intelligence?

In parts of the South, it’s not uncommon to end a sentence about a dilemma with the word one, short for one or the other, as in I’m going to quit my job or get fired, one.

How did the first person to say a dirty word know it was a dirty word? Geoffrey Hughes’ Encyclopedia of Swearing is a great source on this.

For the math lovers out there: Listeners on our Facebook page recommend Fermat’s Enigma and In Pursuit of The Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed The World.

The idiom thrown for a loop most likely derives from boxing and the image of someone knocked head over heels.

A riddle: What runs over fields and woods all day, under the bed at night sits not alone with its tongue out, waiting for a bone?

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

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters . Used under a Creative Commons license.

1 Response

  1. Bill Davis says:

    I never thought about it, but my parents (Deep South, y’all) added that post-dilemma “one” in my hearing as I was growing up in San Diego! I suppose it’s short for “one or the other.”

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