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Alligator Mouth

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Kinbank is a new database that illustrates the global diversity of family terms. English, for example, specifies sibling relationships with just one of two terms: sister or brother. But most other languages have even more specific terms. In Japanese, for instance, there’s a single word for “older brother” and another for “younger sister.” Plus, confused by all the names in Russian novels? Characters often go by more than one name, but there are strategies for keeping them all straight. And: why someone who’s pepper-nosed isn’t going to welcome that new pickleball court next door. Also, slide out on one’s ear, a game about life in alternate universes, Konglish, uce, how one’s accent develops, Du gehst mir auf den Keks, why someone who is heavily drugged is said to be snowed, and kangaroo words.

This episode first aired July 23, 2023.

Showing Up with Arms Swinging

 Don’t show up with your arms swinging is a way of telling a would-be guest not to show up at their hosts’ empty-handed; they should always bring along a gift. Similar admonitions include Ring the door with your elbow and Come with your arms crooked.

Korean “Fighting!”

 Debbie in Boulder, Colorado, says that while watching K-dramas, she often hears Korean-speaking characters urge someone on with an exclamation that means something like “Go get ’em!” or “Good luck!” and sounds like the word Fighting! It’s an example of Konglish, a combination of Korean and English, often transliterated as Hwaiting! or Paiting! On his blog Gusts of Popular Feeling, Matt VanVolkenburg reports tracing its use back more than half a century.

Why Don’t You Have the Same Local Accent as Everyone Else?

 Elijah is from Fayetteville, West Virginia, and wonders why he talks differently from the way his peers from the same area of Appalachia talk. What causes someone to develop a particular accent? Two great resources for information about the Appalachian dialect: Amy D. Clark’s Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity and Community (Bookshop|Amazon) and the West Virginia Dialect Project directed by linguist Kirk Hazen.

 The German idiom Du gehst mir auf den Keks means “You’re annoying me” or “you’re getting on my nerves.” The literal translation? “You go me on the cookie” or “You’re walking on my cookie.” This makes more sense in German because “cookie” is slang for “head.”

Dr. Quizguy and the Multiverse of Pun-ness

 In this week’s puzzle, John Chaneski imagines the possibilities in several alternate universes. For example, what show would have hired him as the Quiz Guy if he’d answered an ad to create games involving nuthatches, northern flickers, and ospreys? That show would be called A Way with…?

Sometimes Local High School Slang Doesn’t Make It Beeg, but It’s Still a Part of Us

 Lisa lives in Columbia, South Carolina, but went to high school in Brockport, New York. There, a certain type of student was called a beeg or beeger. Such a classmate was likely a fan of Iron Maiden, wore their hair in a mullet, and smoked in the bathroom–the late 1980s version of greasers. She’s not heard the word anywhere else, but on the “Remembering Brockport” Facebook page, she and her fellow alums have speculated that beeg and beeger might derive from beagle, because those students were always bumming cigarettes like a hungry hound begs for food, or perhaps a mispronunciation of beige, a reference to looking crapulent after a night of partying. In a previous conversation about high-school cliques, we’ve also discussed student groups dubbed Hessians and heshers, among others, such as jocks, nerds, and grits.

Being “Snowed” in Anesthesiology

 Max, a paramedic in Dallas, Texas, says that in his line of work, the term snowed describes a patient whose level of drug intoxication is so high that they’re aware only of themselves. Snowed in this sense may stem from an analogy with the sensory deprivation resulting from white-out conditions in a blizzard. But another possibility is that it’s a reference to Dr. John Snow, a monumental figure in the field of anesthesiology.

Your Hummingbird Butt

 Don’t let your alligator mouth overload your hummingbird butt! is a more picturesque way of saying “Don’t boast!”

Being “On Your Ear” Can Mean to Be Upset

 Susan from Asheville, North Carolina, is surprised that fellow members of her writers’ group didn’t understand her use of the phrase I was on my ear meaning “I was upset.” This expression and variants of it have been around since at least the 1860s. To spin around on your ear means “to get violently angry,” to go off on your ear or to slide out on your ear means to depart angrily. Or telling someone Walk off on your ear is the equivalent of telling them to go to hell. Future U.S. president Harry Truman described his own father as being on his ear when Truman failed to show up somewhere on time.

Prickly Pepper-Nosed People

 Someone who is easily offended can be said to be pepper-nosed.

We All Have Kin but We Think About Them and Name Them Very Differently

 The new Kinbank database lets you explore the global diversity of family and kinship terms. Compiled by an international team led by anthropologist Sam Passmore from The Australian National University, it’s providing new insights into kinship terms around the world. For example, although it’s long been assumed that most languages’ word that means “mother” starts with an M sound, such as mama or madre. But when the researchers looked at terms for parents in more than 1200 languages — most of them from New Guinea or Australia — they found that more than 40% of the parental words starting with an initial M sound referred not to the mother, but to the father. Another thing in the database: The Samoan word uso is used to refer to one’s same-gender sibling or cousin, or to someone you feel that kind of close kinship with. Uso has found its way into English-speaking areas with Samoan communities, both with that meaning and also to mean “Samoan” more generally. Sometimes it’s now rendered in English as uce.

Funnily, Sillily, Jollily, Uglily, and Friendlily Enough

 Will in Austin, Texas, feels a little odd every time he uses the expression funnily enough. Although the phrase is grammatically correct, it still feels awkward to say. In part, that’s because the adjective funny ends in the letter Y, but surprisingly enough the adverbs sillily, jollily, uglily, and friendlily were formed the same way from silly, jolly, ugly, and friendly. Those adverbial forms aren’t at all that common today, but they’ve been around since the 16th century. Also, contrary to what sticklers might insist, using the word fun as an adjective is perfectly fine.

Kangaroo Words Contain a Smaller Version of Themselves

 A kangaroo word is a word that contains letters that appear in the same order and form a synonym. Examples include the verb regulate, which contains rule; masculine, which contains male; blossom which contains bloom; and precipitation, which has within it rain.

Russian Names and Naming Are an Intricate Tracery of Relationships

 Anastasia in Marquette, Michigan, is reading a lot of Russian literature from the late 18th and early 19th century, and keeps getting confused by naming conventions in that language. That naming system is often a challenge for non-Russian speakers, because in Russian, surnames for wives and husbands differ, and the patronymic bestowed when one turns 16 years of age often ends up being more important than one’s surname. Nicknames also complicate matters because they often sound nothing like the original name.

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

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity and Community by Amy D. Clark (Bookshop|Amazon)

Music Used in the Episode

Au RightGeorge DukeThe Inner SourceMPS Records
Love RebornGeorge DukeThe Inner SourceMPS Records
BarakaKuumba-Toudie HeathKawaidaTrip Jazz
Feels So GoodGeorge DukeThe Inner SourceMPS Records
Sweet BiteGeorge DukeThe Inner SourceMPS Records
The Golden FluteYusef LateefThe Golden FluteImpulse
The Other SideSure Fire Soul EnsembleStep DownColemine Records

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