Obamamania, Obamabot, Obamathon, Obamamentum— the list of variations on the name “Obama” goes on and on. Is there an English word that means “the in-laws of your son or daughter”? And what does it mean when someone says, “Well, that was odder than Dick’s hatband!”?
This episode first aired January 17, 2009.
Origin of Eavesdropping
You’d be forgiven for wondering if eavesdropping derives from the idea of would-be spies slipping and falling from the eaves of a house. But it doesn’t.
Time for a sports question! If an NFL team has a week without having to play a game during the season, it’s called a bye week. But a caller says he’s also heard bye week refer to a week in which a team draws no opponent. Which is correct? Hint: Tie goes to the adjective.
Etymology of Simping
In our recent episode, Dust Bunnies and Ghost Turds, Grant mentioned simping, a slang term for “the act of pursuing a woman online in a fawning fashion.” What’s the etymological source of simping? “Cyberpimping”? “Acting like a simpleton”? “Simpering”?
Baby Talk Puzzle
Quiz Guy and proud papa Greg Pliska stops by with a word puzzle in honor of his infant daughter. The quiz is called– what else –“Baby Talk.”
Your Child’s In-Laws
What do you call the parents of your son’s or daughter’s spouse? They’re your child’s in-laws, but what are they in relation to you and your spouse? A caller who spent years in Latin America says Spanish has a specific term for this: consuegro. She’s frustrated by the apparent lack of such a term in English.
Odder Than Dick’s Hatband
“Well, that was odder than Dick’s hatband!” A caller says his mother always used that term. Now he wants to know: Who was Dick? And what was so odd about his headwear?
Ever sat down to a turkey dinner where someone offered you a bite of the Pope’s nose? That’s a name sometimes applied to the bird’s fatty rump, which many consider a delicacy. Martha and Grant discuss this and other terms for the so-called “part that goes over the fence last.” Is this part of a turkey any more appetizing if you call it the parson’s nose, the uropygium, or le sot-l’y-laisse? The last of these is a French term for that part of a turkey; roughly translated, it means “only a silly person won’t eat it.”
Shelf of Unwanted Books
When it comes to books, some people are pack rats; others make a point of periodically culling from the word herd. In a recent New York Times essay, Laura Miller describes her own mixed feelings about getting rid of unwanted books. A full shelf of unread books, she writes, can feel like “a kind of charm against mortality.” Martha and Grant discuss Miller’s essay, “The Well-Tended Bookshelf.”
Slang This! with Beagle-Chased
This week’s “Slang This!” contestant from the National Puzzlers’ League tries to pick out the real slang terms from a puzzle that includes the expressions beagle-chased, green-shifted, kiln-fired, and shovel-ready.
A caller who grew up with 10 brothers and sisters recalls that whenever sibling squabbles erupted, her parents would intervene with a cheery, “Do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?” The children were expected to respond with: “Not if it’s in cans!” Such silliness, she says, would get everyone laughing, and the dispute would be defused. Grant and Martha discuss this and other handy non sequiturs.
Suped Up vs. Souped Up
You’ve modified that car to make it go faster and look sharper. But is your car correctly described as suped up (as in “supercharged”) or souped up?
Is there any connection between term Indian summer and the term Indian giver? A caller worries that might be the case, but the hosts assure her it’s not. By the way, that marvelous cultural history of Indian summer that Martha recommends is Beneath the Second Sun, by Adam Sweeting.
Photo by kahvikisu. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Obamamania!: The English Language, Barackafied by the Editors of Slate|
|Beneath the Second Sun by Adam Sweeting|