Get out your skinny jeans and pass the PBR! Martha and Grant discuss the definition of the word hipster. Also, what happens when you pull a brodie? And why do we describe something cheap or poorly made as cheesy? Also, sawbucks, shoestring budgets, the origins of bootlegging, and cabbie lingo, including the slang word bingo.

This episode first aired June 23, 2012.

Download the MP3.

 Cabbie Slang
A former cabbie shares his favorite jargon, like green pea and making your nut. Someone waving down an occupied cab is known as a bingo, and the cabbie will usually tell the dispatcher to send another car. A San Diego cabdriver has gathered much more taxi slang.

 Cheesy
Is there any etymological connection between the dairy product and the adjective cheesy, meaning inferior, cheap, or otherwise sub-par? This descriptive term for something lowbrow or poorly made at one point had positive connotations in the 1800s, when something great could be said to be cheesy as a rare Stilton. Over time, though, cheesy took on the connotation of something unappealing, an apparent reference to a low quality, stinky cheese.

 Shoestring Budget
A shoestring budget is a spending plan that’s as thin and spindly as a shoestring. Not surprisingly, the term gained popularity during the Great Depression.

 I Would Liefer
A line from The Moor of Venice, “that I would liefer bide,” features an old word for rather that shares a root with the words love and leave, as in by your leave.

 Stretch the Hood
Cabbies are sometimes known to stretch their hood, which means to fib to the dispatcher about their location. Sometimes they have to drive out of bounds to pick up a fare.

 Container Clue Word Game
Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a word puzzle based on so-called container clues, where the answer is divided into two words, one which is found inside the other. For this game, the answers are all Greek gods.

 Best People in the World
A Word-Book of Virginia Folk Speak from 1912 includes this gem: “Bachelors’ wives and old maid’s children are the best people in the world.”

 Identifying Hipsters
What is a hipster? Is it an insult to call someone a hipster, even if they’re, well, a hipster? Do hipsters identify themselves as hipsters? Grant traces the label from 1960s counterculture to today’s skinny-jeaned Brooklyn paradox.

 Omnishambles
The handy term omnishambles means all in shambles, and has found its way from the British TV comedy The Thick of It to the floor of the House of Commons.

 Cucoloris
What is a cucoloris? This lighting grate, which also goes by such names as cookie, gobo, and dapple sheet, is used in photography to cast a dramatic shadow. There are lots of spellings of this word, including cuculoris, kookaloris, cookaloris, and cucalorus. The name may have to do with George Cukor, an early pioneer of the tool in old Hollywood.

 A Paraprosdokian
Add this to your list of paraprosdokians: Two guys walked into a bar. The third one ducked.

 Bootleg History
Where does the term bootleg come from? Originally, smugglers tucked bottles of alcohol into their pants to sneak them onto Indian reservations to sell illegally. The term knockoff also refers to pants, and buttleg is a variant that can refer to contraband cigarettes.

 Give Me A Sawbuck
Why do we call a ten-dollar bill a sawbuck? The support for woodworking known as a sawbuck folds out into the shape of an X, the same shape as the Roman numeral for ten. Hence, the slang term for the currency worth ten bucks.

 Typos: Performance vs. Competence
Can you get away with calling a misspelled word a typo if you didn’t know how to spell it in the first place? One variety of mistake is called a performance error, where the goof is somehow related to the machine or keyboard. A competence error occurs when someone doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re in the first place.

 Pull a Brodie
To spin a brodie or pull a brodie is to spin a doughnut in a car. The term derives from the name of Steve Brodie, who allegedly jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886. To do a brodie, originally meaning to jump or fall, came to mean any kind of stunt.

 A Poem From Us
On the website A Poem From Us, people upload videos of themselves reading poetry from other writers. Here, David Jones reads “A Cradle Song” by William Butler Yeats.

Photo by Shaun Sullivan. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
You Got Me Hummin’ Placebo Ball Of Eyes CBS
Showbiz Suite Placebo Ball Of Eyes CBS
Balek Placebo 1973 CBS
The Cylinder Milt Jackson The Ballad Artistry of Milt Jackson Atlantic
Locked Down Dr. John Locked Down Nonesuch Records
Funky, Funky Harry Deal and The Galaxies Absolute Funk 5 Body and Soul
Funk Pump The Counts Funk Pump Aware
My Children, My Angels Dr. John Locked Down Nonesuch Records
Makin’ Whoopee Milt Jackson The Ballad Artistry of Milt Jackson Atlantic
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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8 Responses

  1. EmmettRedd says:

    Grant Barrett said:


    Is there any etymological connection between the dairy product and the adjective cheesy, meaning inferior, cheap, or otherwise sub-par? This descriptive term for something lowbrow or poorly made at one point had positive connotations in the 1800s, when something great could be said to be cheesy as a rare Stilton. Over time, though, cheesy took on the connotation of something unappealing, an apparent reference to a low quality, stinky cheese.

    This site reports that Yankee was meant to be insulting and might derive from ‘cheese’. The OED does not mention much of this. If the link is true, Yankee is another word indicating cheese with a poor connotation.

    Emmett

  2. Heimhenge says:

    I think this qualifies as a paraprosdokian (and I’ve always thought it was hilarious):

    An nun, a dwarf, and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says “What is this, some kind of joke?”

    On the other hand … maybe it’s just self-referential, and in a different class entirely.

  3. hippogriff says:

    I have never done this before – left this site to look something up online (books and other resources requiring leaving the room, but not leaving the computer site).  I vaguely recalled cheesy having something to do with Urdu and sure enough, I found a reference to 1818 Urdu meaning “a thing”.  By 1858, it had entered mainstream (British) English meaning “showy”.  Then it went though the usual meaning changes slang goes through, but having to do with cheese seems to be a retroetymology.

     

    Probably the more famous use of lief in Shakespeare is in Hamlet’s advice to the players, where he opposes artifice in delivery with a preference that the town crier deliver the lines.

     

    I have been told the origin of hipster referred to opium dens where addicts would lie on their hips, smoking the drug – thus originally a hipster was an addict, even if only marijuana which is rarely consumed lying on one’s hip.  Thus, it is unlikely a hipster would self-identify as such.

     

    Paraprosdokian: (sounds like an Armenian surname :-) )  There was once a Lifebouy commercial that would get the treatment from kids.  Singing in the bathtub, singing with joy; but Joy got mad and left.

    When Robert Briscoe was Lord Mayor of Dublin, he was once introduced at a formal occasion, “Once there was an Irishman and a Jew, and he is our speaker tonight.”

  4. Kaa says:

    The joke I heard that first defined “hipster” for me is this one:

    Q: How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: It’s a pretty obscure number. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it.

    What *I* got from that was that they seem to think they’re on the bleeding edge of fads and want to feel superior. From what you guys said, that may not be right?

  5. telemath says:

    I recently heard this one:

     

    “I just had hip surgery.  You’ve probably never heard of it.”

  6. Wait a minute… Is this a double joke:
    —-
    telemath on July 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm said: I recently heard this one:
    … “I just had hip surgery. You’ve probably never heard of it.”
    —-
    Sounds like what a Hipster (or Hippie) has when he has his appendix out, no?

    Scott Adams is a mater at Paraprosdokians, or is it Paraprosdokia, and even talked about his technique in his book.
    Anyway, my favorite such thing is from Dilbert (2/28/2001) on Management Training:
    ” The two essential rules of management. ONE: The customer is always right. TWO: They must be punished for their arrogance.”
    Regards, Steve

  7. Forgot to mention… I think you have the name of your show all wrong. It is quite the opposite: “Away with Words”…Hardly…
    Regards

  8. Jackie says:

    How did the hipster burn his tongue?

     

    He drank his coffee before it was cool.

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