For the final word on grammar, many writers turn to the Associated Press Stylebook. But if you find that stylebook too stuffy, you’ll love Fake AP Stylebook, the online send-up that features such sage journalistic advice “The plural of apostrophe is ‘apostrophe’s.’” Grant and Martha share some favorite “rules” from that guide. Also this week: Why are offices and apartments named after landscapes and wildlife that are nowhere to be seen? Is it correct to use the phrase “a whole nother”? And what’s the difference, if any, between a naturalist and a biologist?

This episode first aired January 30, 2010.

Download the MP3.

 Fake AP Stylebook Tweets
Grant and Martha share some of their favorite tweets from Fake AP Stylebook, the Twitter feed that tweaks journalistic style and tropes, such as “Do not change weight of gorilla in phrase, ‘800-lb gorilla in the room.’ Correct weight is 800 lbs. DO NOT CHANGE GORILLA’S WEIGHT!”

 Apartment Complex Names
Why do subdivisions and office complexes have names invoking landscapes and animals that don’t exist there? A Fort Wayne, Indiana, listener got to wondering about this after passing the “Bay View Apartments” in her hometown: there’s not a bay in sight. Here’s the Billy Collins poem on that topic, “The Golden Years.”

 Possessive Form in Lists
What’s happening linguistically when someone’s using the second-person singular possessive in a list of items? A Charlottesville, Virginia, caller began wondering that recently after hearing a wood-flooring salesperson say, “You got your maple, you got your cherry, you got your oak…”

 Tom Swifty Game
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game featuring “Tom Swifties,” those sentences that include a self-referentially funny adverb, such this one: “’Ow! You guys really know how to hurt a vampire,’ Tom said _____________.”

 Validity of “Nother”
A Chicago man says he was caught up short when he caught himself writing the words “a whole nother.” Is nother really a word? The book Grant recommends on the topic is Everything You Know about English is Wrong, by Bill Brohaugh.

 Thinkers Uppers
Anyone ever hear the expression “Thinkers uppers, thinkers it”? It means “If you’re going to mention something that should be done, then do it yourself.”

 Letter Removal Riddle
Riddle time! What English word can have four of its five letters removed and still retain its original pronunciation?

A man who takes daily walks in the woods of upstate New York wants a word for the whooshing of the pines high above their heads. The hosts suggest the Latin-based word susurration, although they might also have suggested soughing.

 Train Conductor Language
Martha and Grant share listeners’ emails about language changes in the mouths of train conductors and military drill instructors.

 Irish Name “O”
What does the O’ in Irish names like O’Malley or O’Riley mean?

 Naturalist vs. Biologist
What’s the difference, if any, between a naturalist and a biologist? Naturalists do it with their clothes off and biologists do it under a microscope? (Kidding!)

Grant talks about the new slang term, zaprudering, as in “The fanboys get off on zaprudering the invite to the Apple product-release press conference.”

 Architecture vs. Architectural
A group of student architects who want their acronym to be CASA have a question. Is it more grammatical to call it the Chicano Architecture Student Association or Chicano Architectural Student Association?

 High School Mascot Names
Grant shares some odd high school team mascot names, including the Wooden Shoes and the Battling Bathers.

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

Photo by Pavel P. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Associated Press Stylebook
Everything You Know about English is Wrong by Bill Brohaugh
Tagged with →  

44 Responses

  1. bizdean says:

    “Nnnn,” Tom murmured forensically.

  2. Ron Draney says:

    “Let me know when the Bishop makes his move,” said Tom, obliquely.

  3. Kaa says:

    “Archie, we…need to talk,” said Veronica expectantly.

  4. Kaa says:

    For the gentleman who called in looking for a word describing the sound the wind makes through pine trees, you suggested “susurration.” The entire time you were leading up to the word, I expected you to give him “soughing.” Mostly because he described the sound as a moan or groan, then switched it to a sustained “whoosh.”

    I’ve seen ‘soughing’ a lot to describe that sound, but oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever HEARD it spoken. I was surprised to find it rhymes with “sow” (as in female pig, not plant) and not “stuff.”

  5. torpeau says:

    Oops!. Did I hear someone saying “these kind” in this episode. Should be this kind, these kinds or these.

  6. Glenn says:

    I have been collecting some bilingual Tom Swifties, that involve calques or faux amis.

    “I remember how to say ocean in French, but I forget how you say wave,” said Peter vaguely.

  7. Christopher Murray says:

    “I got the first three wrong,” he said forthrightly.

  8. imaclone says:

    Hey, I recorded a segment with M&G three years ago on the whole “whole nother” thing… maybe I wasn’t interesting enough 🙁

  9. Glenn says:

    “It is precisely one hour till the new year in Madrid” declared Martha once.

  10. mander says:

    While I admire the resourcefulness of anyone who can come up with as elegant a word as “susurration” to describe the breeze in the trees, Longfellow was content to use the less esoteric “murmuring pines and the hemlocks.”

  11. Getzel says:

    Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. – Bill Vaughan

  12. Ron Draney says:

    Best Tom Swiftie I ever heard was:

    “The prisoner is coming down the stairs”, Tom said condescendingly.

  13. tromboniator says:

    I have only heard sough pronounced suff, but apparently that’s not the whole story: it can be a female pig or to scatter seeds. The latter two pronunciations are not very apt for the sound of wind through needles; nor, to my ear, is murmur, which seems too vocal. I’ve known and loved susurration since I was a young kid, but I have to agree that esoteric might not be too strong categorization. I live among spruce trees these days, and the wind sounds quite different from the leafier region of my youth, where I believe it fizzed.

  14. tromboniator says:

    Re: CASA, architecture vs. architectural

    This reminds me of a battle I fight fairly often: in a stage production, is the person in charge of the singing and playing the musical director or the music director? I maintain that music director is correct, as the fact that the person is in charge of music does not necessarily mean that he or she has talent. If I understand CASA correctly, it is an association of students of Chicano architecture, and the name is not intended to imply that the student is Chicano. The two adjectives Chicano and Architectural could be construed as both modifying Student, whereas Chicano Architecture is somewhat less ambiguously a building style rather than a student’s ethnicity. Neither is flawlessly clear, and Grant is right, you have to go with what sounds right to you, or what makes the music(al) director happy.


    PS: It occurs to me that I hit a problem when I get to the artistic director: art director is not the same thing. Oh, my.

  15. Glenn says:

    Regarding CASA, for me the deciding point for the architecture / architectural question is that it is the academic subject of Architecture that it refers to.
    You got your Philosophy students. (You also have philosophical students, who may not be Philosophy students.)
    You got your Art students. (You also have artistic students, who may not be Art students.)
    You got your History students. (You also have historical students, who may not have been History students.)
    You got your Biology students. (You also have biological students, who mat not be Biology students.)
    You got your Chinese students. (You also have Chinese students, who may not be Chinese students.)
    OK, so it might break down a bit with language vs. nationality.

    But my point is that if the adjective refers to the academic subject, it should be Architecture, and not architectural. This group is for Architecture students, if I understand correctly.

    As for Tom Swifties of the purely(?) English language variety:

    “Dese folks got da best place for brew, beer nuts, and brawlin’,” bellowed Tom disjointly.
    “I’d like to lead us in a prayer for peace,” offered Tom amenably.
    “Sorry, but I’m sick of these lavish year-end celebrations!” groaned Tom bashfully.
    “As I boy, I couldn’t even recite the months without stuttering,” divulged Tom jejunely.
    “Robotic pets, like my Poo-Chi here, are the wave of the future,” predicted Tom dogmatically.
    “All my hair is falling out!” she gasped distressingly.
    “Oh, yeah, and change this font from italic to upright,” added Tom excursively.
    “Charlatan! Dissembler! Mountebank! Rogue!” decried Tom euphoniously.

  16. Re: the naturalist vs. biologist question…

    One thing to be aware of is that ‘naturalist’ and ‘naturalism’ are already well-entrenched terms in philosophy (my own field), and they do not at all suggest the meaning the contemporary biologists in question want it to have. So I would hope that they think twice before reappropriating the term, in order to avoid cross-disciplinary confusion.

    But then again, concern for linguists never stopped biologists from using the word ‘morphology’.

  17. tromboniator says:

    “Charlatan! Dissembler! Mountebank! Rogue!” decried Tom euphoniously.

    Oh, Glenn, I so want that to be mine.


  18. tromboniator says:

    “Death panels will decide that these people will die,” said Tom fatalistically.
    “How about an after-dinner drink?” offered Tom cordially.
    “I’m not going to evangelize the rest of the neighborhood,” concluded Tom distractedly.
    “That stuff will spoil this juniper beverage,” allowed Tom marginally.
    “We should support this part of the bill,” advocated Tom proportionally.
    “I’m studying the Confederate officer who surrendered at Appomattox,” announced Tom generally.
    “You sound just like my dog,” snarled Tom roughly.
    “I never watch more than one-third of a hockey game,” explained Tom periodically.
    “I’m not dead,” retorted Tom quickly.
    “I do feel sorry for myself and my family,” leaked Tom porously.
    “We have a block of salt on the bar,” declared Tom publicly.
    “I’m getting a little cross,” warned Tom rudely.

    Must be bedtime.

  19. EmmettRedd says:

    “The glass is half full,” Jill said, optimistically. “No, it’s half empty,” Jack pessimisticly said.


  20. Ron Draney says:

    EmmettRedd said:

    “The glass is half full,” Jill said, optimistically. “No, it’s half empty,” Jack pessimisticly said.

    Not that it has anything to do with the subject at hand, but here’s the .sig file I’ve been using on Usenet lately:

    A pessimist sees the glass as half empty.
    An optometrist asks whether you see the glass
    more full like this?…or like this?

  21. Glenn says:

    tromboniator said:
    Oh, Glenn, I so want that to be mine.

    I am honored.

    OK. I’ll make a deal. All nonprofit use of my Swifties will go unchallenged. I will not attempt to refute your claims of authorship. However, if the writing and publication of Tom Swifties should become a lucrative occupation, and I discover someone has won $1000 prize, or the like, with this, or any of my Swifties, I will sic a lawyer on them like a hellhound.

    “The social order of Dante’s time inspired his ideas of hierarchy in hell,” inferred Tom demonstratively.

  22. johng423 says:

    … and the downsizing engineer says, “Looks like you have twice as much glass as you need.”

    “A word that contains all five vowels? And I suppose you want those vowels to appear in alphabetical order?” asked Tom facetiously.

  23. EmmettRedd says:

    “Mary, you are having His baby,” exclaimed Elizabeth, enthusiastically. (” 😮 ” said Zechariah dumbly.)


  24. Shelterdogg says:

    As for the CASA question:
    How about the American Historical Society or the Americal Psychological Association?

  25. tromboniator says:

    Eek! Where’s my post from yesterday? Moderator pull it because of my tongue-in-cheek attempt at identity theft? Oh, well, the important part was…

    Glenn: “See you in court,” Tom retorted suitably.

    I’ll happily give proper attribution, as accurately as I’m able, any time I use it. I’m too smuggly proud of my own puns ever knowingly to steal someone else’s (someone’s else?).


    P.S.: “Look out–your tea is hot,” Tom warned precipitously.

  26. Shelterdogg says:

    “We’ll get across the Sahara when Hell freezes over,” Tom said dryly.
    “We’d better reach the summit of McKinley before that big storm moves in,” Tom said expeditiously.

  27. johng423 says:

    ANOTHER, THE OTHER – I think some children have trouble distinguishing the word “other,” especially when preceded by “an” or “the” (usually pronounced THEE when followed by a vowel sound). For example, I’ve heard these pronunciations:

    ADULT: “Do you want this book or the other one?”
    CHILD: “I want thuh yother one.” (And the “y” was emphasized.)

    ADULT: “When you finish this cookie, you may have another.”
    CHILD: “I ate it. Now can I have a nother one?” (And the “n” was emphasized.)

  28. Glenn says:

    “For fifty bucks, I’ll blow your mind,” trilled Trixie fallaciously.

    “Here, in the Lou, ya know, Gateway City, we all, hell yeah, support, come on, the team, like, with, damn right, iced out rings, chains, and grillz, ay,” muttered Tom ramblingly.

    johng423 said:
    “A word that contains all five vowels? And I suppose you want those vowels to appear in alphabetical order?” asked Tom facetiously.

    “There is another answer to your word puzzle,” submitted Tom abstemiously.

  29. papennat says:

    “I’ve been on the lake all day and haven’t caught a thing,” complained Bob deficiently.

    “You betcha, we’re gunna lift America’s spirits, tax cuts, so, ya know, but mavericks – under attack, liberal media right there,” said Sarah appallingly.

  30. Glenn says:

    In deference to Martha’s penchant for Tom Swifties that are 99% adverb free:
    “Hold on to this banister, or you might fall!” Tom railed.
    “It’s OK, Hooch: you have a home now,” Tom expounded.

  31. Blaine says:

    I eat one bowl after another, Tom said serially.

  32. EmmettRedd says:

    Another adverb free Tom Swiftie: “That brings tears to my eyes,” Tom cried.


  33. johng423 says:

    (Glenn) I have been collecting some bilingual Tom Swifties, that involve calques or faux amis.
    “It is precisely one hour till the new year in Madrid” declared Martha once.

    There’s probably a good one using “dos” as in the old computer operating system, but I can’t come up with it right now.

    BTW, I recall my brother telling me the trouble he had in junior high French class. When he saw the words “mon oncle” (my uncle), he thought of the English word “once” so he pronounced the phrase “monn once-L”.

  34. johng423 says:

    Tom Swifties – I can’t stop thinking about ’em. I think I’m addicted. The adverb-free version seemed to be more of a challenge, so that’s what I’ve working on:

    “Three days in the belly of a fish!” Jonah wailed.
    “Don’t let the string go slack,” Tom taught.
    “Better than a diamond – he gave me an oil well!” she gushed.
    “He thinks his car is so fast, it can break the sound barrier,” Tom mocked.
    “Strike three!” the umpire called out.
    “The price of gold is up; the price of silver is down,” Tom announced.
    “Wow! Look at that jet!” the pilot leered.
    “I got the first round draft pick,” proclaimed the manager.
    “All right, I’ll go to Ash Wednesday services again this year,” Tom relented.
    “Her perfume makes me sneeze,” Tom accused.
    “If you do a web search but spell it wrong, the results are pretty funny,” she giggled.
    “I know the rule: ‘A second reference requires a second footnote,’ ” Tom recited.
    “All you’ve done is doodle while I was baking cookies,” she snickered.
    “Damn dogs!” Max cursed.
    “I’m the one arranged the party for the inmates,” Tom confessed.
    “You can’t mark outside the boxes on your answer sheet,” the proctor informed them.
    “I don’t need a drug screening,” the player protested.
    “I just got a second glass of that sweet red wine,” Rosie reported.
    “I gave her so much in the divorce, I can list her as a deduction on my tax return!” exclaimed Tom.
    “Something must have happened right before the car accelerated,” Tom presumed.
    “Just remember this one rule: You can wear white only between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” Blanche summarized.

    I need help with French: so close, yet so far . . .
    “I can’t spell the French word – just write ‘appetizer,’ ” Tom ordered.
    “This isn’t just your average creme-filled donut stick,” Pierre eclaired (uh, I wanted to use “declared”).

    Can’t choose – or maybe need a new idea . . .

    1a “Back then, this whole area was flat,” Tom explained.
    1b “I used to fly a lot… but not any more,” Tom explained.

    2a “Cows don’t say much either,” Tom mumbled.
    2b “There’s no such thing as a ‘daddy’ cow,” Tom mumbled.

    What about if it’s within the quotation itself? I wrote it down anyhow.
    “She convinced me to trade my smooth leather handbag for one with a nappier surface, and now I’m persuaded.”

    Last real one:
    “There’s the exit,” Tom pointed out.
    (That’s my cue . . .)

  35. Glenn says:

    An impressive collections. I have several “favorites” among them.

  36. johng423 says:

    Thank you, Glenn. I consider you one of the masters so I value your comment.

    One revision – I think I found a better word than “accused”:
    “Her perfume makes me sneeze,” Tom eschewed.

  37. EmmettRedd says:

    Can’t choose – or maybe need a new idea . . .

    1a “Back then, this whole area was flat,” Tom explained.
    1b “I used to fly a lot… but not any more,” Tom explained.

    How about:

    1c “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing,” Tom explained.


  38. johng423 says:

    Tom Swifties – Now I really am addicted – I can’t stop thinking about ’em! (as evidenced below)

    Emmett – You just raised the “clever” level on that one!

    Here are my latest attempts:
    • “I banged my elbow and now my arm feels funny,” she said humorously.
    • “In the White Glove inspection, they’ll give you a demerit for the tiniest thing,” Tom warned perspectively.
    • “This poet could describe the cosmos in a single stanza,” said Tom universally.
    • “The mother of Jesus is laughing,” said John merrily.
    • “We got no weights to tie on these useless ropes to keep this lousy boat from drifting,” the sailor muttered cantankerously.
    • “Give me a few of those, please,” requested Tom handsomely.
    • “It’s a poem my cigarette lighter can identify with,” he explained iambically.
    • “Here we are, a-planting corn in a labyrinth again,” said the farmer amazingly.
    • “I’m opposed to using that sans serif font,” she declared adversarially.
    • “Don’t make any noise on the bridge over the river,” Tom advised quietly.
    • “He’s just like any other member of the lower house of Parliament,” she said commonly.
    • “This case is not about opinions or feelings,” the attorney stated matter-of-factly.
    • “Due to the nature of the cover-up we checked the background of everyone who put money into that company,” the agent stated investigatively.
    • “It rained every minute of the campout, so we couldn’t go out,” he said intensely.
    • “I can do anything right-handed,” she boasted adroitly.
    • “That little shelter sure is a sorry sight,” he drawled potently.
    • “It is important for our experiment that both male and female models be correct to the smallest detail,” asserted the nuclear radiation therapist anatomically.
    • “A young lady, sitting erect on a stool, quite prim and proper, was playing the piano,” he described uprightly.
    • “In this country, the idea of everyone driving an automobile has become a reality,” he said incarnationally.
    • “The usual method is to can the cucumbers in brine,” she explained typically.
    • “Paul for President,” the web site proclaimed electronically.
    • “This microphone crackles and pops,” Tony snapped.
    …* (I still have a Rice Krispies box with a mail-in offer for a plastic microphone with the three characters.)

    • “We find the defendant guilty,” announced the jury foreman with conviction.
    • “I can name all fifty capitals,” Sam stated. (“Wisconsin? Oh, that’s easy – W.”)
    • “Reporters want the meeting to be open to the public,” the media disclosed.
    • “He pushed her off the tenth floor,” the lawyer alleged.
    • “She said something about not wanting anything to do with males,” he mentioned.
    • “Warning your child three times will not be enough,” the doctor foretold.
    • “Using the good china? Don’t tell me – Sydney Poitier is coming to dinner,” Tracy guessed.
    • “I can confirm he was right here, taking an exam,” the teacher attested.
    • “My guess is it’s something related to evergreen trees,” he opined.
    • “All citizens must hold fast to this statement of faith,” the emperor decreed.
    • “Please, please stop crying. I’ll give you some candy,” the babysitter entreated.
    • “Did you ride your horse today? Did you brush his coat? Did you feed him? ” she nagged.
    • His kids kept hounding him: “Can we get a dog? Can we? Pleeeeez?”
    • “That will be $2 for the driver, plus 50 cents for each passenger,” Tom told them.

    And here’s a tribute to the hosts:
    • “During our podcast, I might go to a dictionary, then to a thesaurus, or Grant may go to a lexicon,” Martha said, waywardly.

  39. Ron Draney says:

    “The recommended dosage is six teaspoons”, Tom announced.

  40. eiffes says:

    As to Military commands, officers are taught to call commands in a way that can be comprehended across a parade field. After about 15 ft fricitves are lost to the wind. Thus if you were to call “forward, March!” The third or so rank will be unable to hear the F, and likely won’t catch the M. The command is modified to “o-ward, harch” to allow the commander to produce a louder sound, and for the subordinate to comprehend and obey the command. Further, a command given on the march (while moving) must be executed within two steps, with only “harch” on the second step. That makes clearly annunciating multiple consonants especially difficult. Just try to say “right oblique” in one breath between steps. Below are examples of other command contractions for your reading pleasure.

    “Ite hace” right face
    “yeft hace” left face
    “arade, hest” parade rest
    “ya-bout hace” about face

  41. telemath says:

    Here are a Tom Swifties that actually require the name “Tom”:

    “I did not impale that feral feline!” Tom categorically denied.
    “What a bunch on nonsense,” muttered Tommy rottenly.
    “I’m just messing around,” said Tom foolishly.
    “That’s a Miromiro,” Tom tittered.
    “She’s not very ladylike,” said Tom boisterously.
    “There’s a song about how to pronounce that vegetable’s name,” said Tom atonally.

  42. adejoannis says:

    How interesting to hear a caller bring up the question of ‘biologist’ vs. ‘naturalist’: as a biologist, I have wondered the same thing. Biologists are people who work in the area of biology, like people who band birds and study their migration or life history, or people who study elephant social behavior, or people who raise fruit flies in a lab to study. ‘Biologist’ also refers to people who study plants, though they are usually specified as ‘botanists’. Ecologists are people who study systems of biology, like coastal dunes, which incorporate plants, animals, soils, and climatic conditions. ‘Naturalist’ in the field of biology seems to refer to people who study nature in an explicitly empirical way (based on personal observations), and tend to share their observations with others through teaching or writing.

  43. glandheim says:


  44. the dude says:

    “The panel has declared pottery from Israel as the finest,” Tom said judiciously.

    “That English nobleman looks to have gotten quite a lot of sun,” Tom said tangentially.

    “Hmm, I seem to have amputated an extremity,” Tom said offhandedly.

    That’s all I got.