What would you serve a plumber who comes over for dinner? How about … leeks? The hosts play a word game called “What Would You Serve?” Also, can you correct someone’s grammar without ruining a new relationship? And is there an easy way to remember the difference between who and whom?

This episode first aired January 15, 2011.

Download the MP3.

 Leeks and Carats
What would you serve a plumber for dinner? How about leeks? (We didn’t say it had to be appetizing.) What would you serve a jeweler? Carats! Martha and Grant play the “What Would You Serve?” game.

 Correcting Grammar Politely
A Little Rock, Arkansas, caller has been going out with a Chinese woman. Her English is pretty good, but he wonders about the most polite way to correct a minor grammar mistake without ruining a new relationship.

 Etymology of “Word Up”
What’s the origin of the expressions “word!” and “word up!”? Grant shares a theory from the book Black Talk by Geneva Smitherman. Here’s that Eighties-era song “Word Up.”

 Ketchup and Eggplant
What would you serve a chronic procrastinator? Ketchup. What would you serve a fertility specialist? Eggplant. Martha serves up those and others.

 Limericks Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a limericks news quiz.

A woman in Gainesville, Florida, says her father and his partner have an ongoing Scrabble feud over rebeheaded. Is it a word?

 The Positive Anymore
“Anymore, I play golf instead of tennis.” Grant explains that this grammatical construction is known as the “positive anymore.”

 Six Degrees of Separation
What would you serve to people separated by six degrees? Bacon!

A sign-language interpreter found herself translating the word doldrums. She wonders if it has to do the area of the ocean known by that name.

 Serving Up Beets
What would you serve a group of musicians and cardiologists? How about beets?

 Collective Plant Names
Martha shares some collective nouns sent in by listeners in response to a recent episode on the topic.

What does nonplussed mean, exactly? Does it mean “unflappable” or “at a loss.” Martha and Grant disagree about its use.

 Who and Whom Jingle
Is there some kind of snappy jingle for knowing when to use who and whom?

 Dictionary of American Proverbs
Grant shares some familiar proverbs that supposedly arose from African-American English. The book he mentions is Dictionary of American Proverbs by Wolfgang Mieder.

Need a word for “lover of the underdog”? It’s infracaninophile.

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

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Black Talk by Geneva Smitherman
Dictionary of American Proverbs by Wolfgang Mieder

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Word Up! Cameo Word Up! MCA
Where Are We Going? Donald Byrd Black Byrd Blue Note
If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It Ramsey Lewis Another Voyage Cadet
Letha Charles Earland Black Drops Prestige Records, Inc
People Say The Meters Rejuvenation Sundazed
Lansana’s Priestess Donald Byrd Street Lady Blue Note
My Cherie Amour Ramsey Lewis Another Voyage Cadet
Chicken Lickin’ Funk Inc Chicken Lickin’ Prestige Records, Inc
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Harry Connick Jr. When Harry Met Sally: Music From The Motion Picture Sony
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4 Responses

  1. donaldg says:

    “Grant shares some familiar proverbs that supposedly arose from African-American English. The book he mentions is Dictionary of American Proverbs, by Wolfgang Mieder.”

    Notwithstanding the word “supposedly” above, Grant and Martha were much too credulous about attributions of well-known phrases to African-American English. The first phrase cited was “his word is his bond.” As I listened to the podcast of this broadcast, I immediately reacted to the claim that this phrase arose from African-American English. When I finished gardening and got back to my computer, it took literally seconds to find a reference to a very similar phrase in The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, with literary citations from Thomas Malory through Charles Dickens. I suspect at least some of the other quotations cited by Grant were equally spurious. Unfortunately, at least some of your listeners might remember this podcast and spread this misinformation.

  2. ithambo says:

    Regardless of where the phrase “his word is his bond” originates, I was interested to hear your discussion of the related “word is born.” It immediately seemed to me that this could be related to the Gospel of John, in which it is described “how the word has become flesh.” In other words, in this gospel, Jesus is the word that is born, so it seems that word is born could have begun as a reference to Jesus.

  3. lillypetals says:

    I found the discussion about using a positive anymore very interesting. I’m from New England and have never heard anyone use it and could hardly believe they do! It got me to thinking, though. Whatever happened to the words “evermore” and “forevermore”? Although those words aren’t used anymore, it seems to me they at least would make a grammatical improvement to these positive anymore constructions.
    Maybe anymore I’ll say evermore, from now on… Nah.

  4. jjd says:

    A 1605 CE use of a phrase very similar to “a man’s word is his bond” was employed by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, to wit, “An honest man’s word is as good as his bond.” Part II, Book IV, ch. 34, Don Quixote de la Mancha. I doubt the implied claim the phrase was coined by a 1960’s group.