All aboard! This week, a bit about the musical language of railroad conductors’ calls: “Anaheim, Azusa, and Cu-ca-monga!” Also, the origin of the military slang term cumshaw, tips for learning Latin, the influence of Spanish immigrants on English, and the funny story behind why plain-talking Texans say, “We’re going to tell how the cow ate the cabbage.” This episode first aired November 9, 2009.
A trip to the California State Railroad Museum has Grant musing about the way language can change in the mouth of a single individual— in this case, railroad conductors. He recommends a collection of sound files from metros and subways around the world. For different type of stroll down mem’ry lane, check out Mel Blanc’s version of a train conductor here.
A Seattle-area veteran remembers that in Vietnam he and others like him were known as cumshaw artists. They were the guys who scared up and “permanently borrowed” whatever their unit needed— gasoline, vehicle parts, or whiskey for a party. He’s always wondered about the appellation.
It’s never too late to start learning Latin, a language that will deepen your understanding and appreciation of English. Martha offers tips on how to begin: Getting Started with Latin, by William E. Linney, and Virent Ova! Viret Perna! (Green Eggs and Ham in Latin) by Dr. Seuss, with translation help from Jennifer and Terence Tunberg.
A second-generation Mexican-American wonders how much the English language is being influenced by Spanish, especially after a misunderstanding when he turned to his date in the passenger seat and asked if she wanted to “get down.”
Photo by David Wilson. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Episode
|Getting Started with Latin by William E. Linney|
|Virent Ova! Viret Perna! (Green Eggs and Ham in Latin) by Dr. Seuss|