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A Murphy, a Melvin, and a Wedgie

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When it comes to joining Facebook affinity groups, grammar lovers have lots of choices. Take, for example, the group whose motto is “Punctuation saves lives.” It’s called “Let’s Eat Grandma!” or “Let’s eat, Grandma!” Martha and Grant talk about their favorite tongue-in-cheek Facebook groups for grammar lovers. Also this week: when to use apostrophes, whether to distinguish between bring and take, and the difference between a murphy and a wedgie. This episode first aired March 13, 2010.

Facebook Groups for Word-Lovers

  Martha and Grant share some favorite Facebook groups:

Ambrose Bierce was the baddest-ass lexicographer who ever lived.
I judge you when you use poor grammar.
What Are A Grammar?
People Who Always Have To Spell Their Names For Other People

Of course, you can also find A Way with Words on Facebook.


  Ever notice how you can sing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the theme from “Gilligan’s Island”—or for that matter, to “The House of the Rising Sun”? Turns out there are many more examples of this. Is there a word for this musical phenomenon? (Did you know Garrison Keillor can sing “Amazing Grace” to theme song of The Mickey Mouse Club.)

Fits and Starts

  A Connecticut listener says her Generation Y friends make fun of her when she describes something happening in fits and starts. Is it that antiquated a phrase? Where does it come from, anyway?

Famous Trios Quiz

  Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a quiz about famous trios. Try this one: “Steve Martin, Martin Short, and ___________?”

Mad Props

  If someone gives you crazy props or mad props, they’re congratulating you. A Chicago college student wants to know what props means in this context.

Bring vs. Take

  What’s the difference between bring and take?

Terms for Wedgies

  When someone grabs your underwear from behind and gives it a good, vertical yank, it’s called a wedgie. A caller knows that term, but wonders whether and how a wedgie differs from a murphy or a melvin.

Rhyming Verb and Noun Phrases

  Grant quizzes Martha about the meaning of several rhyming verb and noun phrases: cuff and stuff, the cherries and blueberries, chew and screw, eat it and beat it, and flap and zap.

Nails on a Chalkboard

  A Lawrenceville, Georgia, woman wonders: If chalkboards go the way of the buggy whip, what simile will replace the expression “nails on a chalkboard”?


  Grant answers a listener’s email question about the meaning of the musical phrase chicky-wah-wah.


  A caller from Veroqua, Wisconsin, is fascinated by hoarfrost and wonders about the origin of its name. Grant explains its relation to the English term hoary.

Names Ending in “X”

  The mother of a boy named Hendrix wonders how to punctuate the possessive of his name. Should she add an apostrophe or apostrophe with an “s”? Hendrix’ or Hendrix’s?

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

Photo by Jenny Downing. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

You’ve Made Me So Very HappyO’Donel LevyKiller Jazz Funk From The Groove Merchant VaultLRC Ltd
Step OneJimmy McGriffStep OneSolid State
Nose JobJames BrownAin’t It Funky NowKing Records
Easter ParadeJimmy McGriffStep OneSolid State
Theme From ShaftIsaac HayesShaft: Music From The SoundtrackStax
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

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