How much humor and personality can you pack into a 140-character update? A lot, it turns out. Martha and Grant talk about funny Twitter feeds. Also this week, the origins of skosh and “can’t hold a candle,” why dragonflies are sometimes called snake doctors, whether the word pre-plan is redundant, and how technology is affecting the experience of reading.

This episode first aired September 24, 2010.

Download the MP3.

 Favorite Twitter Feeds
Martha and Grant share some of their latest guilty-pleasure reading from Twitter feeds that show just how much meaning can be compressed into 140 characters. Cases in point: @veryshortstory and @GRAMMARHULK.

 Hold a Candle
He can’t “hold a candle” to someone means that he can’t possibly compare to the other person. The hosts explain where this phrase comes from.

 Watering Animals
A zoo tour guide wants a specific word to describe how elephants procure hydration.

 This, That, and the Other Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski presents a puzzle called “This, That, and the Other.”

 Intentionally Misspelled Words
A Facebook newbie asks if it’s okay to misspell words on purpose when communicating via social media.

 Audio Sting
The mother of eight-year-old twins wonders why one of her girls habitually adds “dun-dun-DUN!” to sentences in everyday conversation. The hosts suspect it’s related to the audio element known as a “sting” in television and movie parlance, like this one in the famous “Dramatic Prairie Dog” video clip.

 Just a Skosh
The term skosh means “a small amount,” and derives from a Japanese word that means the same thing.

 Changing How We Read
Remember when the expression “reading a book” meant, well, actually reading a book? Martha and Grant discuss a Los Angeles Times series about how electronic devices are changing the way we read.

 Dragonfly Nicknames
The distinctive shape of the dragonfly has inspired lots of different nicknames for this insect, including snake doctor, devil’s darning needle, skeeter hawk, spindle, snake eyes, and ear sewer, the last of which rhymes with “mower.”

What’s the correct term for the male lover of a married woman? The hosts share suggestions from listeners, including paramour and sancho.

A firefighter is annoyed by his boss’s use of the term pre-plan.

 Hit and Giggle
Martha shares the term “hit and giggle”, a bit of sports slang term she picked up while working as an announcer at this year’s Mercury Insurance Open tennis tournament.

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

Photo by Garrett Heath. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Perfume Bottles Galt McDermott Shapes of Rhythm/Woman is Sweeter Kilmarnock Records
Eastbound Budos Band The Budos Band Daptone Records
Rock Island Rocket Tom Scott and The LA Express Tom Cat Ode Records
Spinning Wheel Jimmy McGriff Electric Funk Blue Note
Blue Juice Jimmy McGriff The Worm Blue Note
Tom Cat Tom Scott and The LA Express Tom Cat Ode Records
Santeria Sublime Sublime Universal Music Ltd.
Down Home Funk Richard “Groove” Holmes Comin’ On Home Blue Note
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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21 Responses

  1. natatorium says:

    My ears pricked up when the conversation turned to “skosh,” as this was my father’s go-to word for a small amount of something (often related to food or drink). I had to laugh when the caller mentioned his father’s service in Okinawa because my father served there also — with the Air Force in the early 50s. Prior to the explanation of its Japanese origin on this episode, from the sound of it (I had no idea how it was spelled), I’d have guessed it was maybe Italian or Germanic.

  2. Nice to have the mystery solved, eh?

  3. Ron Draney says:

    I heard “skosh” a lot growing up, and I always assumed (taking into account who I heard it from) that it was a Yiddish term. Then I signed up for Japanese at community college and learned better. About the same time I remember an ad for relaxed-fit jeans that claimed they had “a skosh more room”.

    As for what to call it when elephants get themselves a drink, I’m almost positive I’ve heard the expression “take water” or “take on water” when the nature documentaries have a nomadic herd of them stopping off at the local oasis before traveling on. Matter of fact, I think I’ve heard the same expressions to refer to steam locomotives.

    “She can’t hold a candle to the old flame I still carry a torch for.”

  4. Halszka says:

    About the “dun-dun-DUN!” and other stings: there’s a semi-profesional/profesional (mixed group) anime reviewers group called the DesuDesBrigade or D2Brigade who produce their own anime-themed podcast called DesuRattle. These guys can’t seem to go an episode without one of them stings. Most used is something like “whackety-shmackety-doo!!” pronunced with a sing-song tone and as silly voice as possible and another one I can’t, well – spell, but I call it “the fail sound”, which I believe comes from Road Runner cartoons when the coyote does something exceedingly stupid and fails yet again at catching the Road Runner. That one would be pronunced in a sing-song tone as well. All this is done for comedic effect, of course, as the podcast frequently wanders off into a kind of impromptu performance.
    The people on the Brigade are all in college, and I think 3 out of 4 of them study something related to media/TV/broadcasting and the like, so it is possible that their frequent use of these (including some less sophisticated company-appropriate like “bow-chicka-wow-wow” and the like) might be related to their education.

  5. telemath says:

    Here’s a sting from “The Mighty B”, another cartoon your caller’s 8-year-old daughter might be watching. In this episode, the main character vocalizes the stings for dramatic effect.

    The Mighty B!: Ten Little HoneyBees

    The first sting is at 5 minute mark. At 8 minutes and beyond, there are several stings or sting parodies.

    @Halszka, I’ve heard the “fail sound” called the “sad trombone”.

  6. torpeau says:

    Regarding “misspell words on purpose,” writing Facebook/Twitter or whatever messages where the words are spelled the same way they are spoken with an accent seems silly to me — an affectation. Anyone not knowing that writer may not even recognize the words. Writing something like “I wanna dawg to gimme sum face-lickin’ when I’m kinda sad,” may be cute the first few times, but it gets old in a hurry.

  7. JohnnyEclectic says:

    RE dun-dun-DUN. If you want your own wearable soundtrack, check this out: – I’m still trying to decide what my entrance theme would be!

  8. Northwesterner says:

    I heard Grant say, “You should look Martha and I up on Facebook.” I know you don’t want us to be the grammar police, but shouldn’t it be “me” rather than “I” in that sentence, even in non-formal speech?

  9. Glenn says:

    Just yesterday I heard an otherwise respectable businessman put the “x and I” construction into the possessive: He read Bob and I’s report.

  10. torpeau says:

    When Arne Duncan read his acknowledgement of being selected as Obama’s Secretary of Education, he had a problem with the I and me. This was from a written speech, not an offhand comment. Lots of us cringed.

  11. Oh, you got me. That is indeed what I said. I was wrong. It’s hard to undo decades of careless speech if you’ve only really been paying attention to your own words for the last few. Also, I like to get lots of angry email. Makes me feel less lonely. The Gotcha Gang is friendlier than the spammers.

  12. Glenn says:

    It’s OK, Grant. I thought you said “… look Martha and Di up on Facebook.” I marveled that someone had set up a Princess Diana memorial page, and when I did, in fact, look her up, I found there were several. As a result, in my hearing, you were entirely correct.

    Hey! That gives me a new way to respond to folks like my colleague above. Next time he says “He read Bob and I’s report,” I can ask, “Who is Di? Somebody new?”

  13. telemath says:

    Glenn said:

    Hey! That gives me a new way to respond to folks like my colleague above. Next time he says “He read Bob and I’s report,” I can ask, “Who is Di? Somebody new?”

    That reminds me of the rebuke I always heard whenever I said, “Me ‘n’ my friend,” in front of my mom. She’d always reply, “Why is your friend mean?” Now I find myself doing it to my kids.

  14. torpeau says:

    In a similar vein is how often people incorrectly substitute “myself” for “me” or “I.”

  15. Dick says:

    I’m sorry this is so late. I get delayed with my podcasts, but I never miss one. You are excellent. About the elephant hydrating itself, I can’t believe someone did not suggest simply “drink”. That is how I give water to myself. I drink. Why not say,”The elephant can use it’s nose to drink”?

  16. Dr. Flavor says:

    I just listened to this episode, and a girl called in asking for a word to illustrate giving an animal a drink. The word has a few meanings, but wouldn’t ‘slake’ apply? I have heard it used to satisfy one’s thirst, but also as to satisfy the thirst of animals by providing them water.

  17. pallas says:

    re: dun-dun-DUNH!

    I have a 6yo that has, for the last few YEARS, accompanied any exit or entrance with a superhero “swoosh.”

    “It’s time to brush your teeth!”

    “Okay, Mom! *swoosh*”

    He has his very own soundtrack.

  18. lui says:

    The pre-planning could perhaps be thought of as pre-problem or pre-event planning. So that if you are planning a response to a current problem or emergency you are ‘planning’ but if you are preparing for events which you think may happen in the future you are ‘pre-planning’.

  19. uul says:

    Regarding the elephant giving itself a drink or satisfying its thirst, two words come to mind. The first one I thought of while listening to the show was ‘sate’. So you could say the elephant uses its trunk to sate its thirst. It’s not exactly the same as giving itself a drink, but does convey the same idea. Equally appropriate would be ‘quench’. Drink seems the logical choice as indicated in an earlier post or hydrate oneself. I guess you can get creative and come up with a number of choices.

  20. coolbritanja says:

    torpeau said:

    In a similar vein is how often people incorrectly substitute “myself” for “me” or “I.”

    This is one of my biggest pet peeves ever! Has it ever been discussed on the show? I hear people using “myself” incorrectly constantly and I have a hard time holding myself back and not commenting on it.

  21. fgarber says:

    lui said:

    The pre-planning could perhaps be thought of as pre-problem or pre-event planning. So that if you are planning a response to a current problem or emergency you are ‘planning’ but if you are preparing for events which you think may happen in the future you are ‘pre-planning’.

    At my workplace, we do a lot of pre-planning. Even worse, we have “pre-meeting” meetings, which also makes little logical sense Luckily, we’re in the legal department, so logic doesn’t always matter 🙂 .
    For us, a ‘pre-” anything means that it is a discussion taking place in which no decisions will be made, because the authority isn’t present (or isn’t ready to make the decisions yet). For the actual planning meetings, the boss listens to all the possible ideas, and then decides on a particular course of action, thereby assuming the responsibility for the success or failure of the plan.