Do you say something happened on accident or by accident? Is text-messaging destroying our kids’ writing ability? Where do horseradish, zarf, and ignoramus come from? This episode first aired October 10, 2009.
Grant and Martha discuss a new collection of college slang compiled by UCLA linguistics professor Pamela Munro. Learn more about it and order a copy here.
Puzzle Dude John Chaneski has a quiz about the unofficial terms for familiar things that have less familiar official names. “The Academy Awards of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” for example, are unofficially called the Oscars. So what’s the unofficial name for what’s officially known as Chomolungma?
Is there a word in the English language that means “to read by candlelight”? A listener in Kittery Point, Maine, used to read the dictionary every night as a teenager and came across such a word. She’s been racking her brain to remember it.
An Orange County, California, listener describes how both his left-handed parents were forced as children to learn to write with their non-dominant hand. Their handwriting looked unusual, to say the least. Grant discusses myths about handedness and recommends the book Handwriting in America: A Cultural History by Tamara Thornton. By the way, if you’re looking for the word that means “written toward the left,” it’s levographic.
Here’s a bit of campus slang accompanied by a hand gesture: awkward turtle. Grant explains what it means and how it’s used.
In a few parts of the country, such as eastern Wisconsin, the more common term for “water fountain” is bubbler. A man who heard the term frequently in Rhode Island wonders: How did bubbler make it all the way over to Rhode Island, but seemingly skip the states in between?
If you need proof that language is powerful, here’s some. Researchers at Cornell recently reported that kids are more likely to eat their veggies if they’re told the food has enticing names like “X-ray Vision Carrots” and “Dinosaur Broccoli Trees.” Wonder how big a grant the researchers got to study what every parent already knows.
Photo by Ratha Grimes. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Book Mentioned in the Episode
|Handwriting in America: A Cultural History by Tamara Plakins Thornton|