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A Whole Nother

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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.

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 Episode

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

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